Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Carma’s Corner: Taming the Dragon

I have become slave to a dragon. Yes, I’m at the mercy of a dragon, and, trust me, this dragon is no Puff the magic dragon who lives by the sea and frolics in the autumn mist. No, this dragon is stubborn, ornery, and disruptive on bad days and understanding, cooperative, and a blessing on good days. But I never know when good or bad days will occur; I just wait and see for the dragon to reveal its daily attitude.

For the last 12 years, my life has revolved around this dragon; I live with it; I work with it, and I even socialize with it. By this point, the secret is probably becoming clearer that the dragon isn’t a fire-breathing, winged creature (although there are days when the dragon makes me breathe fire)—no, the dragon is found in my computer and is known as DragonDictate, or as I like to call the dragon, Princeton.

When I was a senior in high school, I was introduced to DragonDictate as I had lost all abilities in my hands. DragonDictate is a voice-activated computer program that can operate a computer via voice. Dictation appears as text on a computer screen, and voice commands are used to navigate the mouse and other functions of a computer—on good days, that is.

In the beginning, I’ll admit I was not one bit impressed with DragonDictate; it was much easier to tell someone else what needed to be typed. But I was assured DragonDictate only needed to be trained in order to follow my dictation and commands. Training was a rigorous 30,000 word vocabulary repeated three times. I laughed, wondering if DragonDictate would rule me, or if someday I would master it.

The first year of the relationship was frustrating, tiring, and slow. DragonDictate’s favorite word to print was “Princeton”—no matter what I said—it was always “Princeton”. Hence, I named DragonDictate, Princeton—the name has stuck for the last 12 years, although the dragon rarely feels the need to print its name anymore.

Today I have a love/hate relationship with Princeton. Some days I rule over Princeton, but the next day Princeton rudely reminds me that I’m not the master. Nonsense words appear on the page, and little to no commands are followed to operate the computer. On these bad days, I simply state, “Princeton has an attitude.”

Over the last couple weeks, I have been in basic training once again with Princeton—my fourth time in basic training. Computer problems caused issues with the voice activation program, which only leaves one option: repeating a 30,000 word vocabulary list. At this point, I’m in the “taming the dragon” phase, convincing it that cooperation is much easier. Even though training is tedious and time-consuming, I don’t mind doing it because the freedom and independence I receive from Princeton far outweighs the frustration.

I am thankful for Princeton because I know God is using it as a tool to allow me to be an active member in society. DragonDictate (Princeton) is more than just a voice-activated computer program to me; it’s one of the keys to show how God can use all people, even technology, for His glory. With God, all “dragons” can be tamed!

Carma’s Corner: May 1, 2011

An event to certainly go down in history—just like the fall of Hitler and Hussein—now the demise of Osama bin Laden. On Sunday, May 1, 2011, President Obama stated, “Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda, and a terrorist who’s responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children.” For nearly ten years, Americans have been awaiting and anticipating this statement—the declaration that justice had been served. The announcement of bin Laden’s death has erupted a host of responses from closure to vengeance to a renewed sense of patriotism.

As like many Americans, I feel a sense of patriotism and completeness welling within my being, but there is also another feeling growing each day—an unsettling feeling. It’s not that I don’t believe bin Laden deserved death; it’s not that I don’t think justice needed to be served, but I fear the sense of pride and celebration surrounding the death. Yes, America did accomplish what it set out to do—to oust the world of bin Laden’s tyranny. President Obama said, “… but tonight we are once again reminded that America can do whatever we set our mind to. That is the story of our history.”

However, it’s important to remember “the story of our history” never comes without cost—irreplaceable costs of life. Bin Laden’s reign has tallied up countless deaths: 3,000 on September 11, 2001 and numerous others in the nearly 10 years of trying to capture him. None of these deaths were celebrated; no, in fact, I’m fairly confident that each life lost left a hole in someone’s heart. Lives are celebrated, not death.

I do believe the Navy Seals who carried out the mission to capture bin Laden dead or alive should be commended. Perhaps, America should redirect their celebration and joy from the death of one man to the dedication of the military to ensure America’s security. However, America’s ultimate security is found in God alone. God protected those Navy Seals as they landed and commenced their mission within bin Laden’s compound. May 1, 2011 apparently was God’s appointed time for vengeance to be delivered.

Celebrate freedom. Celebrate life. Celebrate God.

Martin Luther King Jr. summarizes my thoughts by stating, “I will mourn the loss of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

Carma’s Corner: Watching, Waiting, and Wonder

It’s happened. It didn’t go unnoticed. No, I dare say the event gained ever increasing popularity with each passing day, but the mounting attention and excitement was unbeknownst to the ones being watched. In fact, I would venture to guess the one being watched finds the event nothing more than an act of nature. But for the twenty-five million plus viewers, the event is a wonder of nature!

Somewhere in a tree near Decorah, IA, two bald eagles maintain their nest, care for their three offspring, and keep vigilance to ward off any potential predators—all in front of the camera. The live video feed has caused a flurry of followers, or perhaps peeps is a better word, to tune in several times a day to see what Mr. and Mrs. Eagle are doing.

Over the last few days, I have been among those peeps. I’ll admit the live video feed is not only intriguing, but also addicting. While I love watching the little eaglets eat, I’m most mesmerized by the dedication of the mother and father eagle. Hour after hour, one of them sits on the nest—watching their young and waiting for the change in shift. It doesn’t matter if the sun is shining, if the rain is pouring, if the wind is ruffling their feathers… one sits—the nest is never abandoned.

Since these eagles have caused such a stir and craze, I decided to do some research on these majestic creatures. Here are a few of the facts:
o Juvenile bald eagles are a mixture of brown and white. They reach full maturity in four to five years.
o The female bald eagle is 35 to 37 inches, slightly larger than the male.
o Bald eagles weigh from ten to fourteen pounds.
o Eagle bones are light because they are hollow.
o Today, there are an estimated 9, 769 breeding pairs bald eagles. They mate for life-until one dies.
o Bald eagles have 7,000 feathers.
o Bald eagles can lift about four pounds and mainly feed on fish and carrion (dead annals).
o Bald eagles can fly at approximately 30 miles per hour and can dive at 100 miles per hour.
o The wingspan of an eagle measures from 5.5 to 7.5 feet.
o Nests usually are built near the top of a large tree. Enlarged annually, a bald eagle nest can become the largest of any North American bird. The record nest measured 20 feet deep, 10 feet wide, and weighed two tons.
o At 10 to 12 weeks of age, eaglets are fully feathered, nearly full grown and can fly from the nest.

Reading these facts and watching the video, I can’t help but marvel at God’s masterful design of the eagle. Each feather, each character trait, and each physical attribute is specifically chosen for the eagle’s prosperity and posterity. No detail is superfluous or carelessly added; each facet holds an important role.

In the same way, God creates each human being individually and unique; he then waits and watches over his creation, just as the eagle. And I’m confident that when the time comes for the new little one to arrive in the world—God feels a sense of wonder because He knows He is the one who “fearfully and wonderfully made” that tiny being. He makes no mistakes; He makes no boo-boos; He only makes one-of-a-kind models.

I feel honored to witness the eagle family—yes, it has consumed quite a few minutes of my time over the last week, but I’ll continue to watch and wait… praising my God for this wonder of His creation!