Just how bad is it the United States? Consider this:

  • Presidential and congressional elections are basically bought by an oligarchy of corporations and very rich people.

  • Every decision by the supposedly non-partisan Supreme Court now falls along party lines.

  • The fourth estate, aka the Press, is now owned by the oligarchs and rather than work elections to help the public elect the best candidates, they work elections to make money, and draw out elections to make even more money.

    • Why are the presidential election "cycles" getting longer and longer? Do we really need two years to learn about the candidates?

    • You do know who ends up with all that advertising money, right?

    • If the oligarchs pay politicians so the politicians can get re-elected, and the politicians pay the media companies (aka the Press) for advertising so they can get elected, and the oligarchs own the Press, then the money keeps spinning around and around.

  • All this means that the government of the United States now exists to serve the oligarchs, which are now their true constituents.

  • Do you believe our government is functioning as intended? Do you know anyone who believes our government is functioning as intended?

    • The reason is not because of entitlements, welfare, Social Security, gay rights, abortion, or too many taxes.

    • The reason is not because of tax breaks to the wealthy, a shrinking middle class, unemployment, or poor education.

    • All the above, while important issues, are simply tools of division, and diversion from what is really going on.

08/27/15; 08:07:13 AM

The Indiana Religious Freedom Act has dominated the U.S. news the last two weeks, mainly due to concerns over how it enables discrimination. As a Christian, I think there is something even more troubling about this and similar acts, and that is institutional Christianity’s participation in and support of the acts. When considered in context of Holy Week, I think that institutional Christianity involvement in governmental legislation such as this is highly ironic.

One can make the argument that the penultimate moment of Holy Week occurs on Monday with the event the Bible labels “Jesus cleanses the temple.” (Luke 19:45-48) Jesus enters the Temple and causes a ruckus, overturning tables and chasing animals. The event was witnessed by ordinary people, the religious authorities, and the Roman political authorities, and it was taken by the religious authorities as a challenge to their practices and position. It is the catalyst that leads to Jesus’ arrest, conviction, and execution.

The religious authorities, through their control of temple sacrifice, saw themselves as the gatekeepers of God’s forgiveness. Further, the religious authorities collaborated with the Roman authorities by keeping the people in line and collecting taxes for Rome so that they could retain their positions of power. The religious authorities where expected to prevent the very type of scene Jesus caused on that day, lest they lose their positions and most likely their lives. (John 11:45-53)

During Holy Week Christians remember the outcome of the collaboration between the religious and political authorities with the crucifixion of Jesus on what is called Good Friday. Let me say it again to be very clear, religious and political authorities worked together to execute Jesus, the person who Christians claim to follow. See the irony?

History has shown that collaboration between religious institutions and empire leads to the corruption of the religious institution.

Are you a member of the church of Constantine or the church of Christ?

Members of the church of Christ, those who dare to declare Jesus is Lord and Caesar is not, know that in Jesus’s resurrection on Easter Sunday we gained freedom beyond what any earthly power or principality can provide. Freedom to follow The Way as Jesus taught and we learn in the gospels such as Matthew 25:31-46. Rather than working with the empire of our day to enact laws so that Christian institutions do not have to do something, these institutions ought to be challenging the empire to feed the hungry, heal the sick, clothe the naked, and provide water to those who thirst.

04/01/15; 03:44:12 PM

Here is the American caucasian legacy. Invade a continent on the other side of the world because it is our God given right, exterminate most of natives, who happen have different skin color and don't speak our language, and exile the rest far away from their home.

Enter yet another continent inhabited by people who have a different skin color and speak a different language. Acquire these people by any means possible, put them in the hull of a ship, transport them across the oceans to the continent you just colonized and make them your slaves.

Spend each successive century in fear of these others, worrying that some day they will rise up.

11/24/14; 07:06:12 PM

Si Quaeris Peninsulam Amoenam Circumspice, if you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you, is the motto of the state of Michigan. At no time of the year is that motto more true than in autumn.

As a life long resident of Michigan, I have grown to appreciate the changing weather for which the state is known. I love sunshine and warmth as much as anyone, but continued days of the same blue sky, sun, and heat does not seem right to my Michigan-trained senses.

Of the four seasons, autumn is the one that I most equate to my home town and the Upper Peninsula. I know that for some, autumn brings with it depression both real and imagined as it preludes winter, but for me the changing colors of leaves, the crisp, cool air, and the smells transport me back to a younger, less complicated time in my life.

Excitement for a new school year and seeing friends again, football, marching band practices, bomb fires, camp fires, walks through the woods, leaf piles, and jumping into leaf piles.

As the temperatures creep slowly towards freezing, the fall leaves stiffen and walking through them produces a distinct crunch. While spring has its delightful fragrances and beauty, autumn engages all the senses, sight, sound, smell, and with hot apple cider and donuts, yes, even taste.

The smell is what to me sets autumn apart from all other times of the year. It's as if as each amber and red leaf tumbles towards the ground, its fragrance is released into the air.

Are you struggling to remember long past and perhaps happier times? If you are fortunate enough like me to have grown up in and currently in the U.P. or anywhere else that has the signs of fall, go outside right now, close your eyes and inhale deeply. Listen to the sounds around and let the winds bring back the smile to your face.

10/27/14; 10:08:40 AM

Twenty five years ago today, I was busy preparing to go on a trip and trying really hard to not think about the purpose for the trip and how I was going to travel. In twenty four hours I would be driving to a small, regional airport to get on an airplane for the first time in my life and travel to Warren, Michigan for a hiring interview with EDS.

I was to fly in a small airplane from Kingsford, Michigan to the world's busiest airport in O'Hare, Illinois, board a large jumble jet to fly to Detroit, Michigan, get a rental car, drive to the GM Tech Center in Warren, Michigan for an interview after which I knew I would either get a job offer or be told thanks for coming.

My first "real" job after graduating college, one that would cause me to move to the "big city." The interview would change my life, and given all that I had to do for the first time in my life, it's a miracle I even made it to the interview on time, let alone get the job.

I don't know why I expected to be able to sleep the night before the trip, but it wasn't going to happen. I had settled in my bedroom that evening to watch the World Series before going to bed when the earth shook in San Francisco and Al Michaels transitioned from baseball play-by-play man to the primary on the scene reporter for a huge natural disaster.

I stayed up all night watching reports about the earthquake, I might have got an hour or two of sleep, but it wasn't much.

Adrenaline carried me through the airports, planes, cars, an interview that lasted hours, a rush to a clinic to pee in a cup for a drug test, check into a hotel, a phone call to my grandma, and a celebratory dinner at Denny's before crashing in my hotel bed.

Too tired to think about where I was, too tired to think about what had just happened, and too tired to remember to turn off the lights to my rental car.

10/17/14; 02:21:52 PM

Here be my notes while watching Apple's October 2014 event via twit.tv.

Hey, I payed for my lunch at McDonalds today with Google Wallet. Apple Pay launches on Monday.

Developers, developers, developers... go get Watch Kit!

Yada, yada, yada... never mind we have told you all this stuff before. Lots of fill going on here with rehash of stuff Apple has already told us.

Put your photos on iCloud so they can be available on every device and for anyone who might ever want them. Even people who you might not want to have them.

Thirty six minutes later... we learn that Yosemite is available today. They couldn't have done this in a blog post?

iPad Air 2.... thinner. 6.1 mm. Less reflective screen, will need a sun test. Lots faster than previous generation iPads. 8 mega pixel camera. Pushing the video and camera capabilities of the iPad. Touch id, supports Apple Pay but sounds like it will only be useful for online payments. Same prices, but no 32 GB model, 64 GB for $599. Basically a spec upgrade here, nothing revolutionary.

So, the reason to buy an iPad is for image and video capture and editing, right? I guess it is easier to do that on a larger screen than on an iPhone 6 Plus.

Original iPad Air still being sold for as low as $399; Original iPad mini for $249. iPod Touch starts at $200, not sure I would by a touch, you might as well get the original mini for $249. Preorders start tomorrow.

I wonder if Apple is going to keep manufacturing the older iPads or if they are just going to sell out remaining inventory at these prices?

iMac with Retina, world's highest resolution display, greater than 4K displays; Retina 5K.

Spec upgrade for the Mac Mini, starts at $499.

10/16/14; 11:57:48 AM

How much is left to change in mobile user interfaces and functionality? Not much, I say, but none of those functions mean anything if the device you use doesn't have power. Battery life is the last, great, competitive advantage to the moble manufacturer that gets it right.

Unfortunately, I don't think there is a battery life silver bullet. End users will see the most battery life through improvements in hardware and software.

Consequently, I think the most important part of any mobile announcement is, how does it benefit battery life? Here are some things to look for.

Google has just announced a new major version of Android, Android 5.0 Lollipop. Ever since the Google I/O conference earlier this year, Google had been referring to this as Android L. At that conference Google presented something they called Project Volta, which are the battery improvements in Lollipop. In upcoming weeks we will see reviews of Android 5.o, I recommend zeroing in on reviews of it on existing hardware like the "original" Moto X to see how it really improves battery life.

Apparently we all like smartphones with bigger screens, as every smartphone company is selling a phone with five inch screens and larger. What comes along with the larger phones is longer battery life, simply because they accommodate larger batteries.

If you want the iPhone that has the longest battery life, buy the iPhone 6 Plus. The trade off is not between how comfortable one phone is to hold over another, or how well one phone fits in a pocket over another, but that comfort versus longer battery life. If you want more battery life, get a bigger phone.

The other half to battery life is charging, and right now there are two emerging ideas on charging batteries. One idea is wireless charging, if all one has to do is place their phone on a pad to top it off, and the pads are readily available, it is more convenient to charge up your phone throughout the day, and the result is having a charged phone when you are out and about.

Another idea to improve battery charging is to shorten the time it takes to charge a battery. Imagine adding hours of battery life in a matter of minutes. Qualcomm's Quick Charge 2.0 technology is in the new Moto X, and Motorola claims you can add 8 hours to battery life in 15 minutes by using the Motorola Turbo Charger with the new Moto X. The phone and the charger have to support Qualcomm's technology.

If you are in the market for a new phone, I personally recommend looking at the battery life features I describe above. Even though I like a smaller phone, if I were buying an iPhone, I would buy the 6 Plus due to the longer battery life. If you are looking at Android phones, there are several large screen and bigger battery phones to choose from, but also look for support for Android 5.0 and either the Qualcomm Quick Charging technology or Qi wireless charging.

10/15/14; 11:48:57 AM

Dave Winer is celebrating 20 years of blogging today. I've written before about how I started blogging after discovering EditThisPage.com, I've been blogging along with Dave for 14 years using the tools that he developed, just as I am doing to write this post.

Dave reminds me most of how the early days of personal computing were done, when people wrote their own software to make computing meet their needs, and happily shared that software with others just in case they found it useful. I think most great pieces of software were crafted first to meet their author's needs, because the person writing the software is very intimate with its requirements.

Most software authored today is written by a person who gets its requirements from another person, and in those instances the soul of the idea is lost in the translation.

Dave is a Mets fan and has written that he believes the Mets have philosophy. I would say that the software that Dave authors has philosophy too, and I know that I have benefited from it.

10/07/14; 07:47:13 PM

Twenty five years ago this month I had my first interview for the company that I still work for today. The interview was pretty much as you would expect, with questions about my education and work experiences. Noting that I listed as hobbies that I play french horn and tennis, the interviewer asked me what these two hobbies say about Frank McPherson.

My answer was roughly as follows.

Playing french horn in a band shows my experience working with others, contributing my part towards playing a song well. As a singles tennis player I have shown an ability to work and compete individually. The two show that I excel both individually and in a team.

The interviewer was clearly impressed by my answer, he asked if I had been given that question before. I had not, this was my first interview ever for a real job, but I would not have been to provided it if it wasn't my sincere understanding of the value both played in my life.

So much is gained by those who have music education in high school. I went to college with some of the smartest people I have ever met, many who played in the various music ensembles at Michigan Tech. When you compare the actual costs of providing music education against the other extra curricular activities schools provide, it is a "no brainer" of which ought to be getting funding.

For me personally, my best friends and my best memories of high school and college are all tied to music. I haven't been on a tennis court in twenty years, but I still play my french horn at church whenever needed.

10/01/14; 04:03:53 PM

Due to Apple's event last week, there is currently much discussion about the viability of the Apple Watch. The Apple Watch is the first new product category from Apple since the iPad, and the first since Tim Cook became CEO of Apple. Reaction to it is mixed, torn between those who have faith in a company who has successfully convinced us in the past that we really do need a product, such as the iPad, and those who see the Apple Watch with its complicated looking home screen and multiple buttons as very "un-Apple."

The problem is, I think, that Apple has not clearly communicated why the Apple Watch exists and why one needs to own one. When it launched the iPhone, Apple told us it was the best music player that could also make phone calls, browse the web, and handle email; later thanks to the App Store, the iPhone became the device for doing whatever one needs (there is an app for that). Apple told us the iPad is really the only personal computer many of us need, marking the beginning of the "post-PC" era.

After watching the launch of the Apple watch, do you know why you need one?

The problem is not Apple's alone, before Tim Cook took the stage last week Google had already announced Android Wear and its first consumer incarnation in smartwatches. I can't help put feel that smartwatches are a solution to a problem that doesn't really exist. I don't doubt that seeing notifications on my wrist may be convenient, but do I need it? In contrast, a smartphone is pretty much a necessity today. Why? Because for most the smartphone is their primary personal computer.

A smartwatch is always going to be an accessory, and I think the thrashing about that we are seeing is an attempt to make the product category something that it is not. Because it is an accessory does not make the smartwatch a bad thing, accessories are an important part of a lot of different markets. Think of the "regular" watches people own today, they are pieces of jewelry, some more pretty than functional, and jewelry by definition is an accessory. Indeed some people spend thousands of dollars on accessories.

The smartwatch is not a personal computer on your wrist, right now it is an input/output device for smartphones. Input/output devices like monitors, keyboards, and mice are called accessories. What I see is Apple and Google attempting to make the smartwatch much more than it is, most likely to justify their high price.

Should the smartwatch be a personal computer on your wrist? I do not think so, mostly because I don't think it is feasible to make a personal computer in a form factor that looks good and is comfortable on a wrist. I do think, however, that one reason why I might want a smartwatch is to accessorize my personal computing.

Regular watches as jewelry are accessories for people, smartwatches need to be accessories in the same way and to become that they need to integrate with more than just smartphones, they need to integrate with the world around me. For example, it is widely accepted that userids and passwords are not secure, and with the seemingly endless stream of announcements of data theft, it is clear we need a more secure model of authentication. What if the smartwatch, while securely attached to my body, could be used as a factor in two-factor authentication? Here, I am thinking of something like how the Apple Watch will work with Apple Pay, but used in all instances of authentication and not just for payments.

In my opinion, the smaller the device the more specific its function, and the problem I see with both Android Wear and Apple Watch is that they both are trying to do too much. Right now, I think Android Wear is better on track with its focus on notifications, but both platforms attempt to incorporate applications that make it more of a general computing device, and as I said, a smartwatch is an accessory, not a personal computer.

09/15/14; 02:28:28 PM

Last built: Tue, Jun 20, 2017 at 10:14 AM

By Frank McPherson, Tuesday, June 20, 2017 at 10:14 AM.