Secular

I like how the world sounds, it rolls off the tongue almost like popular. What is not very popular is discussing religion in this country of ours. While I do have many friends that are very open about their atheism and others very open about their faith, I find it very difficult to have an intelligent conversation about the subject in public. There is a category in my blog about the bible. I like the bible, I like bible study. I like discussion about the topic of faith… however, I hate religion.

I first became more aware of the weight of the world secular while attending an evangelical church. The indoctrination consisted of separating yourself from things of “the world” as if it was not something we were a part of. As a nerd, the concept of alternate realities is a common one and one that is fun to play with; but to constantly try to feel myself separate than the reality that I lived in was kind of weird to me. Eventually there was a breakdown on the whole facade. People that were “higher up” would constantly listen to the music that they told others to cast away. That whole duality did not sit well with me. The concept did stick with me though, if you don’t do things in the name of “insert imaginary friend” you are of the world.

I like dancing quite a bit, I grew up dancing salsa and giving that up is like giving up something that brings many wonderful memories I have with my Mom. One of my favorite moments that will stick with me forever is when she got remarried and I had the chance to dance with her. As we danced together I could see so many emotions in her teary eyes and I could see how happy she was. Some religions call that “of the world” and dancing is a bad thing that leads to sin. Stuff like that makes me take Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris a lot more seriously.

But is the universe really random? Is there no force that unite us all? Are we all alone?

So many constructs out there are meant to make us feel better, secure, happy and fall in line with society. Religion, god could be some of them. I find myself constantly wondering if a prayer is really not as powerful as it feels. Or also how it feels weird to just send positive thoughts to someone. Am I even as spiritual as I profess to be?

I wish I had more answers than questions. I do know that I don’t need religion as a moral compass, but dam this new pope is pretty awesome. I also go back and think about the conversation I had with a devout catholic and his very firm belief that Muslims were multiplying and we needed to keep up. I don’t understand the whole world, I don’t think anyone does. Not sure if I am becoming more secular as I get older but I do know I live in the world.

Somewhat Personal

Everyone feels pain in a different way, and I think part of the human condition is to think that your pain is greater than what others are feeling. Then you see someone in a worse position that you are mentally, physically or financially and you are grateful for what you have. At least I am… at least I try to be that way. I used to try to entice some conversation by bringing up a topic that I thought needed exploring and further understanding. I even at times resorted to “trollin” a bit for fun, then a good friend called me out on it and made me realize that truly you don’t gain anything (not even entertainment value) from the practice. True and honest communication is more important.

I lost my dog Friday night. I have been separated from a beloved pet before by someone else taking it, or having to move to another country or just the proverbial toilet flush of a dead fish that you had for years… but this week for the first time I lost my dog. Lucy had been the first animal to give me this level of unconditional love, ever. Sure my cat Shayla is still around and it will be hard to deal with when she is not since she has been with me for now 13 years… but she is a cat. She does give a crap sometimes but most of the time she is just, well, a cat. Lucy was not like that. We lost our other dog earlier this year and he liked me… well he kind of tolerated me and was not at all cool with me being the new alpha. He accepted it but did not have to like it. Lucy even though she was the biggest dog and capable of probably ripping anything to shreds in her path was gentle. She was always happy to see me, she was always looking for a chance to lick my elbow (I think she knew I hated that) and was content with simply just laying down close to me by the couch or in the office.

We don’t know what took her away from us… the vet has theories, but no real answers. She did not whimper, she did not cry out, she just went to sleep forever very peacefully right next to my side of the bed.

There is a post that I drafted years ago and never posted. It has to do with pets and pet ownership. I probably will never post it because it is in a way a form of trying to entice people to a conversation on pet ownership.

I hate having pets. Mostly because they are a huge responsibility in a world already full of those. I am also highly allergic to them (touch a cat, then touch my eye and yea watch them puff up.) I hate getting close to them and the fact that in American life we (see I said we) value more the life of an animal right next to us than other human beings. I hate the fact that there are so many irresponsible pet owners out there. I hate the fact that we create connections with these animals and at times those are stronger bonds we have with other humans.

In the end I love Lucy because of the unconditional love she provided to me during at times some very difficult moments. Life changes, I have a lot to be happy about right now… but it truly sucks that I lost my dog.

Ex·cep·tion·al

/ikˈsepSHənəl/
adjective
1.unusual; not typical.
“crimes of exceptional callousness and cruelty”
synonyms: unusual, uncommon, abnormal, atypical, extraordinary, out of the ordinary, rare, unprecedented, unexpected, surprising; strange, odd, freakish, anomalous, peculiar, weird;
“the drought was exceptional”

I have a huge chip on my shoulder. Every time someone that has never been outside of the U.S. of A. and they call ‘Murrica the best country in the world, it irks me. Not because I think that Colombia is the best country in the world (even though I think it is a happier nation.) but because I think to call something the best you at least have to have something to compare it to. I also discount military that have been “off base” during their duties because like tourists they probably never “lived” in those countries. For a country so set on assimilation and propagating democracy, this country does little to get to know anyone else. So again, unless you have lived in another country and has actually tried to learn a little about their culture you have no business calling America the best country in the world.

That said, America is great and exceptional. Careful though, exceptional does not mean necessarily better. If you did have the chance to read what Putin addressed to us “A Plea for Caution” it is quite a well crafted piece. I’ve had some time to digest it now and while I don’t dismiss it as propaganda I do see it as somewhat of a slap in the face. Not of America, not even of Obama, but it is a slap on the “World Police” mentality. The UN is or was supposed to be that… but are they?

What Putin wrote bothers me. It bothers me not because some of what he says is correct, heck most of what he says is correct… but how can a piece that ends up being somewhat arrogant calls the US arrogant. The part that bothers me the most is the “exceptional” comment. The US is exceptional in many ways, it is not a perfect country and I am quite critical of it and its society at times, but it is the land of opportunity. It is the land of inequality, just hidden a little better than in other places.

You have to understand that even though I was born in another country and sometimes feel more part of the “Fifth Estate” than anything else, I am American. I finished my schooling here, I have worked most of my life here, I continue to shape who I am as a human being here. I am an American. While I do dream of retiring somewhere else, I will always be grateful for the opportunities this exceptional country gave me and still gives me.

So to Mr. Putin (I almost called you “Pootie Poot” which is what we call him in our household) while I am not against the notion that we are all created equal under God, this country houses a lot of different people, and yes different does things out of the ordinary. This is an exceptional nation, and while maybe not the best or better than any other country in many respects This is still America and we will continue trucking on.

Before the month ends!

It has been difficult to create content lately, not because there is a lack of stuff I want to talk about but because the blog format is simply not lending itself to me right now. I do have some good news though, a group of friends and I have started to work on a podcast. Episode one should be coming soon, but I think we might wait until we are in about the third one to actually start really spreading the word. Call it proof of concept for now.

Surprisingly enough I think that doing the podcast might make it so I blog more. I think being able to explore topics that I talk about in a podcast format might make me want to expand on them… maybe even blog before the podcast so that I get my ideas in order. Not sure if I am just hanging on to a dead medium or not… but hey sentimentalism is not a horrible thing now is it?

Horrible segue coming,

Not truly a dead blog, but a dead person talking to us from beyond. “A local sportswriter blogs about committing suicide.” I had heard about this story the day that it happened from a local radio station that basically figured it might be a hoax… it was not. The website he left is truly haunting in many respects. Not the least haunting is that I know people that think like the guy does. As some of you might know I have had to deal with death quite a bit lately… loss sucks… it is hard to get over, but it also gives us an opportunity to appreciate life.

I had a very informal conversation with someone after a business trip. I was not a fan of the place I had just visited for many reasons, I did not feel safe, I did not like the food, etc. The person responded with the ‘MURRICA is the greatest. I really hate that point of view, even more so when it comes from a person that has never traveled outside of ‘MURRICA. That coupled with death got me thinking more and more about retirement and getting old in this country.

I really don’t want to spend my “golden years” here. I think there are plenty of better places to retire at and I lean towards Colombia being a possible destination just because of familiarity. Trust me it is not the violence ridden nation it used to be back in the 90s, and while it is not a perfect place, no place in the world is. Getting old here in the US sucks because this society sees everything as disposable, including people.

It might sound like I am depressed but I am really not. I am not saddened by the thought of getting old, in fact I look forward to be able to do some things in my later years. Who knows I might even be in the kid making business still. I do want to be realistic about the future and about retiring. Maybe it is just wishful thinking about making it to old age.

* If you are thinking about suicide, there is help!

About Once a Month

That is the schedule that seems to be working out for me to actually blog. I still have the itch to produce content, but that back scratch-er seems to be out of reach. I have been wanting to share this podcast with you for a while, but their topics have always been kind of specific and I did not want you to get lost in the topic but rather get to know the guys doing a wonderful podcast. The current one talks about something that we all should care about in some level. The NSA getting all up in our digital business. Go listen to the Super Number One, I’ll wait.

Ok, even if you did not listen the discussion is what really makes me like these two guys. They have a conversation about it. Explore the subject with their own opinion and devil’s advocacy skills as well. I don’t always agree with what they say but they are always on point when it comes to diving a little deeper and having a true discussion. This topic of the NSA listening is an interesting one because it comes to us when a lot of people think of the digital divide as something that separates those from access to the internet vs those that don’t.

Don’t get me wrong, that does exist just as much as the divide between those people that have a bank account and those that just cash their paycheck every week. There are tons of lines that divide us and in cases dissecting our society can be quite complex. This NSA leak business though makes things a lot more complicated.

When was the last time that you saw that both political parties are dancing to the same song?

Why did this dude run to China? I know most of you guys are probably not interested but in the security community there have been a lot of noise about hacking and China lately. It is not new for the people that follow security, the new thing has been that it has been all over the financial news, and even the government wanted to start working on gathering information about attacks.

I work indirectly with security. I do however know analysts both professionally and personally. In fact about a couple of months back I had a conversation with one about this subject of social engineering and China just really hammering the US lately. Then this guy goes running to China with the whole Metadata scandal. If you did not listen to the podcast one of the things said that resonates with me the most (because it was my first comment after the news came out…) it is that this is not new information and basically the patriot act and carnivore were just earlier versions. Prism is really a 1.0 type of thing. My fictional mind says that maybe we are in version 5.0 somewhere underground.

Data without context means nothing and it can be dangerous. I wish I had an opinion on this but in reality we have really no data. We don’t know enough to be pissed about it, scared or feel safe. Can we really ever feel safe? When was the last time that a TSA check made you feel safer while flying?

The government listening to us makes me no more afraid than a corporation like facebook having so much demographic information on us. Or twitter, or this blog, or playing candy crush. Everything we do now has the potential to leave a trail. Whether that trail is used to sell us something or put us in jail when it becomes illegal to drink too much coffee, who knows.

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