I am not a fan

Things, words, people, and more that I am not a fan of (an abbreviated list):

  • The Olympics. A horribly political and corrupt concoction wrapped in a veneer of happy media and sporting gluttony.
  • The words “future proof.” Just…dumb.
  • Billionaires pretending to space travel.
  • A long list of companies including Amazon, Wal-Mart, and Facebook.
  • I’m especially not a fan of Elon Musk and just about anything he does, including Tesla, a.k.a. the new BMW.
  • Apple News. About as terribly executed as it could possibly get.
  • iOS Apps (ahem, NYT) that do not support or allow Dark Mode.
  • Heat, humidity, and associated bugs.
  • Refusal to acknowledge wrongdoing.
  • Identity politics.

This and that

It is nice to enjoy a long weekend with extended family whom we haven’t seen in more than two years. No drama, no frenetic drive to do this and that, just a time to visit and relax.

Yesterday I downloaded the iOS 15 public beta as well as the watchOS 8 beta and began to use some of the new features. By and large, they are impressive. Things that I especially like:

  • Photo recognition of plants and animals, allowing me to take a photo of a wildflower, for example, and then have Photos automatically identify it for me. This was what I primarily used the separate iNaturalist app for, and now I am not sure I’ll need to any more.
  • The weather app is transformed and I’ll be using it from now on instead of Dark Sky.
  • Photos now does built-in text recognition and translation. Very nicely done.
  • Enhanced Spotlight search, which now includes photos that are identified using dynamically generated keywords. For example, input “bird,” and photos from my photo library of birds are now included in Spotlight search results.
  • Safari has many significant changes and I like them all including the ability to set up something like VPN, called iCloud Private Relay.
  • Maps, wow, very different in a good way.
  • The new Portrait watch face in watchOS 8.

There are many other new things in iOS 15 and watchOS 8, but that’s what I’ve noticed the most so far.

Yesterday, I went for a walk in a nearby state park and took these photos. It was nice to return to a place we’ve gone to since I was a child, and to see that it is still well-maintained. I also had a look at a new, nearby wind farm.

Rejection

I struggle with rejection, and I don’t know anyone who doesn’t. But rejection is a basic part of life, and it happens hundreds, if not thousands, of times in a typical lifetime. How we handle it is therefore critical to our overall well-being and success (however success is defined).

My so far unsuccessful attempt at moving into a higher level library job is one example of handling rejection. I thought I had two great opportunities, ones that I had prayed over and over about and felt it was the right thing for me to pursue. And both, for different reasons, emphatically turned me down. This hit me a lot harder than I ever anticipated, and I have been in a downward spiral of hurt and self doubt ever since.

Although rejection in the workplace is what I’m primarily thinking of, rejection at home and in our personal lives is even more devastating. I have felt a lot of that, too.

A few days ago, I serendipitously came across a YouTube video, only about 15-20 minutes long, about some guy who had something to say about rejection. Entitled “Overcoming Rejection, When People Hurt You & Life Isn’t Fair” and presented at a TEDxWileyCollege meeting by Darryll Stinson in 2019, this video has dominated my thoughts. The message is simple: 1.) we should learn to embrace rejection because it frequently is the result of 2.) the projection of other people’s problems onto you rather than being a true reflection of your own value/worth/giftedness, and 3.) rejection is often protection against things that are not best for us to thrive.

This short video with its simple message really got me thinking. Are you struggling with rejection right now? Maybe Stinson’s message will help you, too.

The vacation that wasn’t

My previous post was overly optimistic and positive. In reality, a week of vacation turned into a week of mostly work with a bit of vacation. Grump, grump, grump. In many ways this was because a controversy broke while I was away regarding copyright guidance I gave for the campus as a whole. (At the moment, in addition to my regular responsibilities, I’m serving as the de facto copyright officer for the school.)

I should have known better than to think I’d be able to truly enjoy a vacation.

What is interesting, however, is that I managed to do all kinds of work with only a cellular (LTE) connection. This included data heavy things like multiple Zoom meetings per day, the odd Teams meeting, and more. It even included recording an hour and a half lecture for the graduate course I’m teaching, and posting it successfully in the learning management system. I relied upon my iPhone’s cellular connectivity, using it as a personal hotspot for my laptop and iPad.

Previously, I would never have considered doing this because I did not have an unlimited data plan. I also would never have considered doing it because the cabin where we stayed does not have strong cellular connectivity. But things change over time, sometimes for the better. I do have unlimited data now, and although it wasn’t glitch-free, LTE coverage was just enough to help me get away with working entirely from our cabin.

The fact that this is what happened and that I was able to successfully work in those conditions is positive, but it is going to be rendered unnecessary fairly soon. The cabin where we often stay, as well as others in the place we visited, will soon be connected to the Internet via fiber. Once in place, that will probably be faster than the Internet connection we have at home, which is cable.

I am not advocating working remotely while supposedly on vacation. It was a pain and as the week went by, it became more and more stressful due to work controversies. But it is just an interesting thing to note that it was possible.

Vacation daze

With relatively short notice, we decided to head north for vacation for a week, and are now nicely installed in our favorite cabin on the shore of a large lake, enjoying mild temperatures in the daytime and cooler temperatures at night. I’m writing this with my iPad on my lap, sitting in a camping chair, gazing out onto the lake. Already I feel in some sort of vacation daze. That’s a good thing.

The bad thing is that I still need to work in spite of being on vacation. Yes, this is a very sensible and American thing to do. (Insert sarcasm.)

Turning back to the positive: we are here with our oldest son and our daughter-in-law, able to visit and be together for the first time in about 18 months, and it is great to have all of us together again. In addition, as previously noted, the weather is great and I have enjoyed seeing many things already, such as loons calling out on the lake, many deer, and more. There is a black bear somewhere nearby that we hope to get a glimpse of (although, not too close, please). I have already been able to do a bit of fishing as well.

Below are some initial photos, which I hope you’ll enjoy.

But there are bright spots

Life is hard, but there are bright spots. For example, yesterday when looking out my living room window, I noticed (not for the first time) a hummingbird flying around. It wasn’t looking for nectar at our window or anything; it was just in my peripheral view near the neighbor’s big oak tree, and for some reason, I decided to pay more attention. I’m glad I did, because fairly quickly I realized that the hummingbird was going to and fro and back…to its nest! For the first time in my life, I spotted a hummingbird’s nest. Gobsmacked. These things are at most a few inches wide, so for me to be able to spot it is quite exciting.

Today I looked again during the time when she (it is a female ruby-throated hummingbird) is most active, and set up my camera on a tripod and used the longest zoom I could possibly manage, at the lowest ISO in order to get a crisper image when cropped. The photo below is the best I can do and it isn’t very good. But it clearly shows this magical creature in her magical little nest, made up of many things including moss. Pretty amazing, and a welcome bright spot in an otherwise bleak time.

Another door closed

The wait for an answer is over, and unfortunately, I was not offered the job elsewhere. Another door closed. All along, I consistently prayed for God to make things clear, and he did, just not in the way I was prepared for. I am thankful for his loving kindness and tender mercy, yet feel extremely dejected and a little in shock.

Those who know about the news have tried to help soften the blow by highlighting that I am worthy, I am good, it just wasn’t the right opportunity, keep on, etc. They mean well, of course, but it all leaves me empty and without comfort.

Again, I know that God’s will for me and for my family is best, and of course I accept that. I am also a bit relieved in an odd way because to have been offered this job and accepted it would have meant tremendous disruption for us all, and not everyone was on board with that prospect.

Still, now I have to face up to the prospect of continuing to work in a highly toxic and dysfunctional environment where it is an enormous struggle to even by civil at times to others. And hope for my career is extinguished, and the helplessness and sense of being trapped are overwhelming right now. Somehow, by God’s grace, I need to keep on, but frankly, I don’t want to.

Before you think it, yes, of course I am grateful to have a job, especially when so many others struggle to make ends meet. I hope and pray that my focus will shift to acceptance and gratitude and what is positive again, but it is just not the thing right now.

Still waiting

Although I haven’t written a blog post in a long while, it seems like a lot has happened since the last one, and it also seems like nothing has happened. I am still waiting on word about a new job possibility, for example. At the same time, events in my three non-family life areas—teaching graduate courses, taking graduate courses, and my job—have been eventful. This juxtaposition of many things happening and seemingly nothing happening can be pretty tiresome.

On the family life front, things have been fairly peaceful, which is great. Although I got pretty sick again with the second COVID vaccine dose, it was short-lived, and I am thankful to now be vaccinated. Having to give a class presentation in my New Testament theology course while feeling sick as a dog was not fun, but it passed. I have enjoyed helping one of my teenagers learn how to drive, although that process can sometimes be stressful. And the weather has been nearly perfect of late: lots of bright sunshine and cool temps.

One of our kids pays special attention to/cares for our dogs, and often takes great photographs of them, like this one of my favorite, Cricket. Isn’t she beautiful?

I hope we’ll know more about our future direction in the next few weeks. In the meantime, I have a ton of grading to finish, a course I’m teaching to wrap up, and a final paper to write for the course I’m taking. Sometimes I wish that the busyiness of this time of year wasn’t so all-encompassing so that I could spend more time simply enjoying the weather, going birdwatching, being carefree. All too soon, the wonderful weather will devolve into hot temps, humidity, and lots of awful insects…

Sudden death

A dear friend of more than thirty years, who was my age, died suddenly last week. If you are a praying person, I ask that you hold up her husband and their children to God in prayer.

One thing I’ve learned is that grief and loss are terribly difficult but even more so in this pandemic. I cannot tell you the number of friends I know who lost loved ones during the past year or so yet cannot grieve them and honor them in ways they normally could. Somehow, that compounds the pain.

Sudden death is shocking and although I believe all things are in the Lord’s hands, I cannot seem to wrap my mind around it or understand it. Maybe that is part of the point, to learn once again how powerless and weak and out of my depth I am or can be, and thus to surrender this big thing to God.

I know my friend is with God and forever free of the bonds and trials of this world. And that is the very best thing. But I am ineffably sad.