A Rough Day

I thought I had a rough day today.  Doctor’s appointment then an oil change for my car.  As I sat at the dealership I started seeing spots in my vision.  Migraine.  Now my migraines have 3 main triggers.  Blood pressure, barometric pressure (spring and autumn are the worst), and dehydration.  I grabbed a soda from the machine, drank it, and prayed for some relief.

I’ve got migraine medication, at home, but I was a half hour away and had no car.  So I rode it out and much to my relief – the migraine faded without me going completely blind, a few pangs of pain and an Imitrex later, I was all clear.  Praise God.  This evening I visited with my friend and my step-kids for a small celebration… Halfway through dinner, I went blind.

Two in a day!?  Now the last time I’d had multiple in a day, or several each day, was my last trip to Club Med in Turks & Caicos.  I was drinking plenty, just not enough water.  The migraines were brutal.  There I was in paradise, and I really thought I was having a rough day.

Tonight after my vision returned and the pain began to fade, I decided to leave and get home so I could rest.  As I’m walking down the yard to get to my car, I trip over a tree stump I did not see, twist my right ankle, drop flat on my back, and scream as the Chinese leftovers go airborne.

My friend comes running out, helps me up, we collect the food and I limp my way to the car.  I crack a joke about “does this what ‘until death do us part means?” and we share a laugh.  Man, what a rough day I thought.

About a year ago, I shared a prayer for my father.  His surgery was a success.  His cancer was gone.  Then covid hit.  For months, fluid filled his chest triggering pain, anxiety, and a desperate struggle to breathe. Due to covid, followups were missed.  It wasn’t until many months later that the cause of his problems was identified, and they began treating it.

A cure was attempted, after over a week of prep, the doctors changed their mind.  My dad was sentenced to continue to treatments, no cure, and seeing he and my mother suffer breaks my heart.  Still, every time I see him, I get him to laugh, he gets others to laugh, and they share the joy of the Lord with those who know them through their word and deed.  I do what I can to honor my father and mother…  It really puts perspective into what I consider “a rough day.”  I pray for them every day.

Today I caught a news story about a media personality I have followed for 27 years whose stage 4 cancer, despite repeated treatments, has progressed.  This gentleman has wealth, fame, and adoration from millions… More than I would ever want or need.  Now I cannot speak to the faith of this man, but I know that since his terminal diagnosis I have heard him loudly and boldly praise God and share thanksgiving to Him publicly before the millions who tune in to his show every day.

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit. James 5 13-19

All that money, all that wealth, all that fame – in the end – even he knows that salvation can only be found in the arms of Jesus.  I wish him well, and I pray for his health.

I have other good friends and loved ones struggling through cancer and other health issues. Some believe, some do not.  I will share the gospel in my words and deeds, regardless.

In the book of Mark, Jesus stated:

“The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12 29:31

There is no fine print there, love God with all that you are, and love your neighbor as yourself.  I am far from perfect.  There are folks who evoke my ire daily.  Before I was saved, I would eagerly spit out a retort with the goal of dragging them down to my level so I could beat them with experience… today I struggle to hold my tongue and I pray for them.  Friend and enemy alike.  I will pray for them, and I will love them because God loved me first and there is no better way to share that love and joy with my fellow human beings than to pray for them and love them as God loves me.

I will not lie, I slip daily.  I am still slow to listen and fast to speak at times.  I will not stop trying.  I will not stop praying for the salvation of all my neighbors on this Earth.

Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door! My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful. James 5 7:12

So tonight, before I rest, at the end of my “rough day,” I will pray for friends and enemies alike.  I will pray for those with whom I agree, and those with whom I shall never agree.  I will pray for the Lord to grant me the strength, wisdom, and patience to use my ears before I use my tongue. 

Prayer is powerful, it is a God given gift to every single man, woman, and child on this Earth.  Use it.

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Fireproof

Last night I experienced something I can’t explain, and today I spent most of the day feeling as if I’d just run a marathon on my hands and knees. The only thing more exhausted than my body is my mind right now.

I fell to my knees, then I fell to my chest.

I laid flat on the floor, face down, weeping.

I prayed. I prayed harder and louder and more direct than I’d ever prayed before. While I’ve been a fairly open book on this blog – what was said shall stay between the Lord and myself for now. I don’t know how long I was face down on the floor, prayers erupting through my sobs…

So much clarity.

Today I skipped church. I wanted to go, more than ever, but I was – and still am – physically and emotionally exhausted. There remains a lot going on in my life, many trials and blessings, and for a moment there I thought I was in control…

Then Christ reminded me whose child I was, and who was in control, I fell before Him and was humbled.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Philippians 2:3.

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Be aware of social engineering!

Social Engineering: the use of deception to manipulate individuals into divulging confidential or personal information that may be used for fraudulent purposes.

Every couple of weeks I get a panic call a friend that their computer has been hacked. Normally what precipitates this is a random phone call, be it from Microsoft or even your bank.

The caller sounds serious.

Someone’s hacked your computer.

Someone’s hacked your bank account.

I need your information to help stop it.

Please, please, please… if you get one of these calls, or if you have older family members, give them this short piece of advice.

HANG UP THE PHONE. Caller ID can be faked, and people lie.

Step 2? Call your bank directly and have them check your account.

If you have a friend who is good with computers, and that you trust, have them give your computer a good once over. I’ve only ever gotten one call from a bank I use which asked for this information. I asked for their information, including extension. I then hung up and called the bank’s phone number on the back of my card. Using the provided extension, I got that person back on the line and continued the conversation.

No actual bank representative will take issue with you hanging up to call them back at the customer service number on the back of your card, or the main bank telephone number.

If Microsoft or some other technology company calls about your computer being a problem, they’re likely lying too. Hang up. If your computer is really causing a problem, your ISP will shut down your Internet connection and wait for you to call and complain.

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9/16/2020

I can only imagine the pain, had I not prayed ceaselessly.

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A Tale of Two Internets

6 Months ago, before Covid, I visited my ISP’s website and saw that they were offering 400Mbps of bandwidth for $50 a month for life. Great deal! At that point I’d been paying over $100/m for 200Mbps of bandwidth. I took the age old route of calling and threatening to cancel my service.

What I wound up with was being stuck on the phone for over an hour with an argumentative sales rep who wouldn’t help me out or send me to retention. I couldn’t get the package because I was not a new customer. After I did the math to show that when the promotion expired I’d still be paying less for more with a new rate, he changed the numbers and continued arguing.

I hung up, frustrated. Shortly after, I was sent home indefinitely due to Covid.

New Internet access was no longer a priority as working from home, getting food, toilet paper, and looking after the needs of my parents and friends were my primary focus. Fast forward a few months, restrictions begin to relax, stress begins to wane, and the power situation in my town began to revert 20 years.

Back when I first moved to Pine Island, a slight breeze would knock out my electrical service for hours. Every day there was another power outage. It became the norm. That was compounded by a major outage affecting the entire tri state area back in 2004 I think. About 15 years ago, changes were made locally which drastically improved the situation.

The past few months though, I could expect the power to drop at least once or twice a week. Not a huge deal as I have a generator, but the problem was Internet. I’m still WFH for the foreseeable future, and a stable Internet provider is what enables me to continue to receive pay checks from the company I work for.

Any time the power dropped, within 15 minutes whatever redundancies Optimum had would shut down and I’d be in the dark. My only options then were to utilize my 4G hotspot on my cell phone (I’m lucky to get 1 bar) or work from another location which had Internet. Every time – the Polish Legion next door would have a working DSL connection.

This all came to a head with Hurricane Isaias which knocked my power out for a day, but knocked out the Internet for nearly a full week. Early on I had hoped the outage would be minor, but duty called and I had a job to do… so I found myself working from the PLAV, from the Tuscan Cafe in Warwick, or from home via my limited 4G hotspot.

It was frustrating, it was inconvenient, and it was drastically compounded by the total lack of communication from Optimum Online. 99% of the communication was automated and generic. No ETA on restoration. My electrical service provider Orange & Rockland always provided accurate estimates on restoration, and had my power back up in a day.

Where O&R provided an outage map with updates, as well as communication via text and phone, Optimum was a pre-recorded message. The 1% of the time where I got in touch with a human being, I was given an actual time estimate which passed by with no restoration. They flat out lied to me and others who managed to speak to a human being.

My only other Internet option out here is provided by Warwick Valley Telephone, it topped out at 75Mbps, cost $35 a month, and throughout every single electrical outage was online. I put in an order on August 10th, and yesterday they installed it as promised. The CSR I spoke with advised I might only see 60Mbps, but speed tests proved that I was getting 72-73Mbps.

Today, I picked up the phone to call Optimum and cancel. Had I gotten the level of service from them today that I was denied 6 months ago, I’d still be using Optimum. The first representative I went through immediately recognized that I was a customer for 9 years and offered me the 400Mbps at $48 a month. I declined.

He then made a few other offers to try and retain me before escalating to his supervisor. I made clear my issues with Optimum, praised both he and the gentleman I spoke to before for the level of service they were providing me. A few more questions to confirm my decision to cancel, and that was it.

I’ve still got 30 days past the cancellation to reinstate with a better rate, but for me – stability is of greater importance than raw speed. I’ll give WVT a year and see where they are with their gigabit services. I’ll also see where Optimum is a year from now, or perhaps Verizon Fios might be available by then.

In the mean time, I have a stable Internet provider that is fast enough for my needs and costs 1/3 what I was paying for Optimum. Hopefully the level of customer service I received today from Optimum continues to improve, as like I said – 6 months ago, or even during the most recent outage, it would have kept me as a customer.

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This is why people pirate software.

Buying games on a Console system isn’t that difficult, but generally unless I find some deal online, I’m locked into the pricing. On a PC? There are many more options. For instance tonight after beating Gears 5 (available for “free” via Microsoft Game Pass Ultimate) I went looking for a new game to play.

After poking around in Steam and not finding anything interesting enough to pay full price for, I took a trip over to the Epic Game Store. There are others I also use, Steam, Origin (EA) and GOG (DRM-Free), and Microsoft. All PC game stores have various ways to get me to spend money on their product, and unless it’s a new AAA title, sales are where it’s at.

In this case, I chose ‘The Crew: 2’ an arcade style racer that I played around with in the past, but had no desire to drop over $50, even after playing the demo on my Xbox One. On Steam? It’s $50. Gold edition? $90. The former gets me just the game with no DLC, the latter gets me all the DLC and a ‘season pass’ which entitles me to copies of all future DLC.

Epic Game Store? $22 for the gold edition. I don’t mind dropping $20 on a game I may or may not like. So I pull the trigger and discover that I can apply a $10 coupon. Even better. $12 for a game sold for $90 elsewhere! So I buy the game, and proceed with the 40gb download. I’ve got pretty good Internet so the wait wasn’t very long.

I go back into the Epic Game Store, click on my game, click “Launch” and nothing.

I click it again, nothing.

Just in case it takes 3 clicks, I try again.

Nothing.

Google it. Ah, it’s a Ubisoft title. So in addition to running the EGS, I need to run Ubisoft’s own storefront / game manager called U-Play. I’ve hit this before, not unexpected, but still irritating. I log into the software, ah, it’s been years, I can’t recall the password. So I reset it.

After resetting the password, I get prompted to enable two-factor authentication. Again, not a bad thing. I go through all that, attempt to start the game again in EGS. EGS starts U-Play. U-Play starts the g… No, no it doesn’t.

I now need to download a 20gb update to play the game.

Had I pirated the game (I am not advocating this at all, but come on, please get your crap together game companies) – I would have likely downloaded it much faster due to Torrent technology and been playing this game over an hour ago.

Lets see if my $12 was worth it before I pass out at this keyboard.

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Was working on a new post when…

This came to me, it will still be part of the larger post when I finish it, but it was too good not to share right now: He created us with the free will to accomplish great things according to His will.

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When You’re in The Father’s House.

I’ve kept a pretty good play by play here on this blog since I was saved by Christ, and give full credit for Him to the freedom from fear and anxiety throughout this Covid ordeal including the political and societal chaos which has consumed so many.

In this time, I’ve continued to pray, to explore scripture, and to regularly attend church services online. The thing is though, the more I’ve attended (including listening to back podcasts from GCC) the more distant I’ve felt from the community at large.

I still regularly chat and pray with other folks who attend the church, but the messages just aren’t reaching me like they used to. I feel the Lord has opened my eyes to the existence of other options out there, and now I feel He’s leading me to explore those options.

Prior to Covid, my church had the opportunity to expand to a new location at West Point. The excitement was palpable… but so was an unrepentant call for donation. Every message, every week, every email – please give to this effort. This was above and beyond the usual request.

It was relentless. I didn’t feel this was God asking me to tithe or contribute, I felt like these were men telling me to contribute. Men of God, sure, but flashbacks of the plate being passed at my old Catholic Church were prevalent, only this time the plate stopped until I gave.

The “mega door” as it was described in every message was overwhelming. I prayed on it, and I donated to it, but something about the approach just felt wrong to me. Orange envelopes sat in the back-seat pockets in front of each bible, as a bright reminder to give to this mission. It felt disingenuous, and it made me cynical.

I mentioned earlier that I’d been going through past podcasts from my church, and several series again covered the topic of tithing. Each message made me wince. I have zero problem giving to the church, I know how GCC helped bring me and others to Christ, but more than GCC, it was the people there.

Then my Pastor was cryptically and unceremoniously walked out the door.

It was a blow I didn’t expect. I saw many respond in anger and confusion. I was confused. I prayed, and struggled to accept this action as one of God. It just didn’t make sense to me. This is the man who helped guide me to Christ. This is the man who really made me understand the importance of prayer, being guided by scripture, and setting aside time each day for Jesus.

Back to the podcasts. Now the one in particular which I was listening to the lead pastor stated that if I ever felt pressured to give, I shouldn’t. 10 years later – on the topic of that “mega door” the pressure to give was relentless. The dichotomy was undeniable and clear.

Then I went back through other messages, where the church would regularly interview or mention the stories of folks who had been saved, and the last words would be “Welcome to Grace Community Church” or “that is Grace Community Church.”

That wasn’t the church, it was Jesus through the church, and maybe it’s just me – but I feel like the church itself is treading its own path…not necessarily His path. That’s why I could never really attach to the Catholic church… and I think it’s why I’m feeling so detached from this one.

I’m sure that not being able to gather in number, in person, to worship is part of this… But I also believe that the message and the mission has also diverged, and once again I’m seeking another place to worship, to continue my own journey and spiritual growth.

A couple weeks ago, I witnessed a very passionate message from the pastor of a California church. For over an hour I sat completely focused as scripture was quoted, parables were recited, current events were addressed without filter…

For the first time since the “mega door” messages… For the first time since my Pastor was fired… For the first time since I was able to gather with believers… I was listening, I was learning, I was convicted. It felt like Jesus was in the room again. I did not feel alone.

Lastly, I still watch the messages each Sunday, I still meet with others online, and I still listen to the old podcasts… But like another pastor I’ve been following online proclaimed … It’s time to open the church again. I can go to a bar, I can go to Walmart., but I can’t go to church?

Open the doors again. Embrace faith. Embrace Jesus. I am not sure where I am headed, but I pray that the Lord keep my path straight and grant me the wisdom to know when to listen, when to speak, and when to walk.

In Jesus name, amen.

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Zen and The Art of Black Cars

I’ve owned 3 black vehicles in my life. Two were projects/beaters (my Buick and my Chevy) and one is my mid-life crisis daily driver with 306hp of hard charging Covid-19 quarantine therapy.

Black cars are beautiful. From my early days sitting on the living room floor watching Knight Rider and The A-Team, there’s always been something about a car that is black on black, they’re both subtle and screaming at the same time.

Black cars are a royal pain in the butt to keep clean. All my other cars were silver. A silver car can get surprisingly filthy before anyone can look at it and want to write ‘wash me’ with their finger. A black car is clean for approximately 8.3 seconds after cleaning.

Where previously I could go through the automated car wash without worry, that’s verboten with a black car. Every single imperfection is glaring. Scratches, swirls, and chips – oh my. I’ve generally been decent with washing my cars, with a black car? Oof.

My neighbor’s friend runs a detail shop, so he gave me some tips. I picked up the proper ingredients, and got to work. I used Griots Garage Brilliant Finish Synthetic Detailing Clay, Speed Shine Detailing Spray, Ceramic 3-in-1 Wax Spray, Chemical Guys Honeydew Snow Foam Car Wash, and Stoner’s Invisible Glass.

Now I’m no expert by any means, but this is how I took care of my ride today…

  1. Rinse the car off with the power washer (gentle nozzle). After successfully blowing the paint off of 3 of my last 5 cars, I do this more for a quick rinse and no longer attempt to use it to blow something off the paint.
  2. Fill a bucket with water and 1oz of the Honeydew Snow Foam, and also add 1oz to the power-washer’s soap tank with water. I coat the entire car with the foamy soap and let it set in for a bit before I scrub the car down with a microfiber wash mitt. I also rinse the mitt in a second bucket to make sure any debris are removed before I soak it with more soapy water.
  3. Rinse the car off again with the power washer, make sure to get all the soap off. Now the next part is key – drying it. Don’t use rags. Don’t use normal towels. Get some actual microfiber drying towels (I use the ProElite Microfiber Twisted Loop Drying Towel) – buy two of them. Get the car dry from top to bottom so extra water spots can be avoided.
  4. If there are water spots after drying, that’s where the Speed Shine Detailing Spray comes in. A quick squirt on the body panel, wipe it down with a microfiber cloth, then flip the cloth to buff it.
  5. In my case, I had several water spots under the wax on my hood (more on the roof, but I’ll deal with that next time). For this I used the synthetic detailing clay and the speed shine detailing spray as lubricant. I sprayed a healthy amount on the hood then wiped it down with the clay bar in straight lines. After which, I used a microfiber towel to wipe off the excess spray and buff the finish.
  6. Lastly, the spray wax. I’ve been hearing tons about ceramic spray wax, the Griot’s Garage variety got rave reviews so that is what I used. I generally use 2 towels at once for this, wax on / wax off like the Karate Kid. However, I don’t swirl the cloths, I wipe them in straight lines. I usually go through 4-6 towels during this process.

After quickly going over the windows with Invisible Glass, I had a very shiny and clean car for 8.3 seconds. As you can see below, the work was worth it. Now I’m just waiting to see how the ceramic wax fares against the usual spring rain, and whether or not this buys me a little more time between washes.

As always, don’t take my word for it, do your own research, and by all means – enjoy cleaning your ride!

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Truly, Truly

60 days ago, I undertook a challenge, a plan – to read the entirety of The New Testament. Now if anyone had told me 10, 20, or 30 years ago – that I would have taken time out of each and every day to read from scripture – I probably would have snorted and laughed. As of today? I’ve completed my first read through.

What is a day? They all seem to bleed together right now. One long day of work, one shorter day of rest. More than once since I began to work from home I have legitimately forgotten where in the course of a standard week I was sitting. Still whether at the start, or the end of the day – I found myself reading through scripture.

I’ll fully admit, there were many things I read which I didn’t understand. Most of Revelation came off like a bad acid trip with what was being described… only to be countered in the end with undeniable beauty. However many years the Lord has given me, I can guarantee that I will never fully understand the word, but I won’t stop trying.

Over the past year and a half now since I was saved, the word has taught me… Through directly reading it myself, or through the interpretations and lessons from pastors and friends. It has truly, truly shaped my new life and brought me peace amidst the chaos that surrounds me.

I don’t know why that has stuck with me, “Truly, truly…” It’s something Jesus said many times, prefacing what He was to say next. I believe it. I believe all of it, truly. Maybe that’s why. The peace I feel is true. Am I always happy? Of course not. Many times in my solitude over the past decade, I have fallen down some dark paths… The word though, always brings me back.

Looking back through my life though, at the darkest points I’ve always sought the light… It wasn’t until much, much later – I found what I was seeking, or to be more clear, the light found me. “And the voice came to him again a second time, What God has made clean, do not call common.”Acts 10:15. There is nothing common about believing in Christ or being saved.

He’s restored and healed my family. He’s carried me through my funks and depression. In both light and dark, I’ve thanked Him. For 300 days I fasted from alcohol. I went from having several drinks a day to delay the darkness, to numb myself to it… To needing it for that purpose no longer. I couldn’t have done that on my own.

There are many trials ahead for me, many temptations. Many victories, and losses. Much sadness, and much love. Through it all, I will have the word of God with me. I will love God because He loved me first. Whatever else comes my way, is just a bonus.

‘When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”‘ 1 Corinthians 15:54-55.

It’s not just that Christ has removed the sting of death… He’s removed the sting of life, because through Him I have hope, peace, joy, and thanksgiving.

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