Archive for December 2010

Robotic coal miners lead to the end of the world (a nightmare)

December 13, 2010

Having been on four flight segments on Friday and Saturday, my poor ears have been in sad shape, congested and achy. In an attempt to take care of them, I took two diphenhydramine citrate (Benadryl) tablets. In addition to hopefully drying out my ears, I knew that these would make me sleep and that I would have crazy dreams.

Sure enough, when I awoke this morning, I remembered a dream that I’d had. This dream was based in reality.

I recently heard a story on NPR talking about the idea of robotic coal miners (I can’t find the current link, but here’s a related story). “Hmmm,” I had thought. “This is a good idea.” Except for the part about the human coal miners who would be out of jobs with no employment opportunities.

But I digress. Or do I?

So anyway, I woke up this morning remembering my dream. In it there were these robotic coal miners. They were doing a good job.

But then…

All of a sudden the robots weren’t harvesting the coal any more. Not only that, they were digging their way upward, upward toward the surface of the earth.

It wasn’t really the fault of the robots. Some evil human hackers had hacked into the robot computer brain. “What was their motivation?” you ask. Well, the answer to that question is: because they could.

So up, up, up the robots tunneled. But their goal wasn’t the surface of the earth–not sunshine and fresh air and light like human miners would be longing for. No! The robot coal miners were going toward the old nuclear missle silos above the mines (and slightly to the west). The evil human hackers wanted to set them off!

Because they could.

There was no “happy ending” to this dream. I didn’t actually dream the impending end of the world, but it was going to end. Not only were the coal miner robot programmers unable to take back their machines; they didn’t have any sort of on-off switch. Once the robots had been taken over, it was a done deal.

What a sad scenario to wake up with!

So the morals of the story are two: (1) build on-off switches into everything; and (2) expect crazy dreams when taking Benadryl.

or is it?


December 12, 2010

I know people who have seen much of the world. I’ve always appreciated their stories, trying never to be TOO envious. I pretty much knew that I would never get the same kind of opportunities.

This year I’ve been a traveling fool! Maybe—with the exception of Cabo San Lucas—my destinations haven’t been so exotic. But I went to all corners of the US, having gone to Rochester, Atlanta, San Diego, and Seattle. I went to San Francisco, Oakland, Napa multiple times. New Jersey, Virginia, Minnesota, Arizona… See? A traveling fool!

Everywhere that I went, whether for work or for play, I had a great time. Even missing my train from Philadelphia to Rochester, I got to spend unexpected time with a friend and her boys. I saw old friends and made new ones. I got to write about important events.

It looks like 2011 will be providing me with similar and even greater opportunities! We’ve already got reservations for Ensenada, Costa Rica, and the UK. I’ll be going back to Rochester, of course, and also to New York City. We have three Las Vegas trips coming up quickly. Just yesterday, Melinda and I were discussing a drive together to the Pacific Northwest this August, with stops to see friends and do sightseeing things along the way. And we’ll probably be going back to Seattle for her company Christmas party next year too. Just think: a lot of my trips this year were planned on a short-term basis. Who knows where I might end up going?

So… I’m feeling very fortunate. Maybe I’ll even have to put some intentional stay-at-home time on the calendar. After all, it’s really hard to BBQ when I’m on the road.

December Synchroblog — Advent: The Journey

December 8, 2010

Here are the contributions to this month’s synchroblog:

An Advent post: Christmas WILL happen!

December 7, 2010

When I worked in the corporate world, I worked for awhile in a software development team. It is a maxim in software that there is never any time to do things right–or at least not completely right: the attitude is that “we can always go back and fix it later.” There was just a rush to get things into production.

Somehow, that reminds me of Advent. We’re in such a rush to get to Christmas that we want to light all of the candles of the Advent wreath all at once. We want to tear open the little windows of our Advent calendars RIGHT NOW and discover that Christ is born and in our midst once again.

We can’t stand letting the world be quiet for awhile. We want to skip right past hope, peace, joy and love in order to rush to the manger and the baby Jesus.

I’m a cook. I love the process of thinking about what I’m going to prepare, then doing the chopping and the cooking, layering the flavors together so that everything turns out as close to perfect as I can make it. I like to think about what I’m doing, to determine if a shallot would be better than an onion, if fresh herbs are better than dried. I enjoy the growing aromas filling the house as the dishes come together. I like setting the table, seeing it as a blank canvas ready to be painted. I like when people sit down and eat, enjoying the flavors as well as one another’s company, and I appreciate the declaration that “this is good.”

Advent is like cooking a nice meal at home. It can be simple or it can be fancy, but it can’t be fast food. It needs flavor. It needs color and texture. And it needs to be a unique experience–not something manufactured for us by someone else. That manufacturing process, after all, is much that has ruined Christmas for many of us.

Everything in life happens in order and in its own time. After all, when the angel came to Mary with the amazing news that she would be the mother of the Savior of the World, she still had to go through nine months of pregnancy. Maybe we should view the four weeks of Advent as a quick symbolic representation of the coming of Jesus embodied in the expectancy of Mary. I’ve never had children of my own, but I’ve known lots of pregnant women. Whether this time is difficult or easy, the one thing these women all go through is waiting. There is no choice, for the child will not come until it’s time for the child to be born.

Sure, we can anticipate the arrival of Jesus. But he’ll be here before we know it. Also, waiting can make the actual experience that much richer! As Gene Peterson (The Message) retells Isaiah 25: 9-10:

Also at that time, people will say,
“Look at what’s happened! This is our God!
We waited for him and he showed up and saved us!
This God, the one we waited for!
Let’s celebrate, sing the joys of his salvation.
God’s hand rests on this mountain!”