Dopamine detox

I am currently attempting something called a “dopamine detox”. I have just read a booklet by that name. As part of this detox, I am attempting to avoid the activities that provide “over stimulation”. One goal was to identify these before starting. Turns out there are a lot of them. And when I think back about my habits over the course of my life, I can conclude that I have been pursuing these activities that provide over stimulation for quite a long time.

And regularly practicing these over stimulating activities, reduces one’s sensitivity to stimulation. Just like any drug addiction. And reducing one’s sensitivity to stimulation causes regular daily activities to no longer be fulfilling or enjoyable to the extent that they should be.

So right now… I am motivated. Not to pursue these over stimulating things… but to avoid them. And avoiding them is far better. Because as I do this I will essentially reset my level of sensitivity to stimulation. And my normal daily activities will be more fulfilling and enjoyable. This is the purpose of the detox.

I think this will become more than a short term “detox” goal. I think it may be a long term lifestyle choice. Because… as I continue to avoid these over stimulating things… the pleasure that regular life gives will be restored to a more natural level.

Finally… HF RFI problem diagnosed

I’ve been frustrated by an ongoing RFI problem here at home when I attempt to transmit on my HF radio. I will frequently blow 4-5 circuit breakers when I key up. Not fun.

Well, I happened to be Googling around a couple of days ago and found a very interesting article on the ARRL website.

This article describes a certain model of faulty circuit breakers that will incorrectly trip when faced with the RF from a ham radio transmission. These are AFCI breakers. Kind of a special thing. They trip when they sense an arc. Well, turns out this article was written within months of when our home was built. And the circuit breakers they were talking about are the same exact ones that we have!

So, problem solved. The manufacturer will be sending us $345 worth of replacement circuit breakers under warranty. Yay! I just have to pay an electrician to replace them.

But after they are replaced, I should be able to use my HF radio without being concerned about popping breakers.

Well almost. My neighbors undoubtedly all have the same circuit breakers because our houses were all built by the same builder around the same time frame. I’m really hoping that they won’t be suffering from tripping breakers when I play radio.

Religion or relationship?

My cousin posted this meme on Facebook today. I thought it was interesting.

I know I need to think about God more… and my relationship with Him. I seem to go through phases. When I am out of practice… there is a certain sort of “coming to terms” with Him that is necessary. That forms a barrier to getting there. And that can significantly delay the process. Because the longer I wait the harder it is.

I don’t really have an answer to this. Except to acknowledge that it’s good to make sure one is on speaking terms with God on a daily basis. Going weeks (or longer) without real communication means that getting back to where I should be will not happen without significant effort and/or some kind of wake up call.

It’s hard to imagine a neglected friend who continues to wait day after day for us when we just go about our days not giving them more than an occasional passing thought. But God is faithful, even when we are not. And I believe that when we do turn toward Him, He is there. And He welcomes us.

Wayward Son

There was a song by the group Kansas that was very popular when I was in high school called “Carry on Wayward Son”. Unfortunately that became my anthem for roughly the next decade. Let’s just say, I made more than my share of bad decisions.

But thank goodness that I was raised in the church and had a personal relationship with Jesus. He kept bringing me back to himself. And he still does. Every day.

There are at least a few people who think those bad decisions “ruined my life”. I would challenge that. God forgives and forgets. And the Bible clearly teaches that when we confess our wrongs to him he no longer holds them against us.

Why should people have a higher standard for others than what God does? If God can forgive and forget, it seems like others should as well. I don’t feel very good about being used as an example of what not to be like.

The fact is, God has blessed me beyond any measure that I could have imagined. If my life was truly ruined… why am I so thankful? Every day God inspires me to be my best. And I fully believe that he furnishes me with what I need to do that. If my life was ruined… then I guess I must be the luckiest person with a ruined life that there ever was.

I am thankful that God has been with me through all my experiences, good and bad. He said he will never abandon me and I have personally found that to be true. And not only do I feel extremely blessed. I can be extra thankful because I am under no illusion that I earned any of it. It was clearly a gift from a loving God.

I do occasionally lament the choices I made when I was young. That’s my prerogative. But I would appreciate it if others didn’t do that for me.

What should have happened

It’s funny. I was just sitting here thinking about my immediate family. I’m turning 60 in a couple of months. My older brother turns 65 today. My younger brother is a couple of years behind me. And my mom is a central figure in our lives (thankfully).

The part that is funny… I don’t think any of us have really changed all that much in the last 40 years or so. Sure we have changed a bit. But we are way more the same than we are different.

I look back at my youth with the knowledge that I squandered an inheritance. I encountered a fork in the road in high school… and I chose badly. The inheritance I’m referring to is the legacy of a solid Christian family life with parents that loved God. And… grandparents that loved God.

After I got a little older… and maybe a tiny bit wiser, I have been trying to gain back what I lost. But it seems that those bad decisions and the experiences that went with them have become a permanent part of me. And yes… scripture teaches us that God forgives… and erases our sin. But I really think I forfeited being the person that I would have been had I taken the other path. But I will keep trying.

The main epiphany that I had was… that I have been spending most of my life trying to become what I would have been had I made different choices when I was young. I guess that’s ok. It does make me thankful. To a large extent I feel like I was rescued. And I thank God that He doesn’t give up on us. He keeps drawing us to Him.

I’m going to leave you with the following song… which illustrates my feelings on this matter.

What makes you a Christian?

I was thinking. I’ve been in the Church quite a lot over my lifetime. I know a little. And one thing I know… is that most pastors will tell you that going to church does not make you a Christian.

As a matter of fact, one of my favorite Christian artists… Keith Green, was famous for saying… going to church no more makes you a Christian than going to McDonalds makes you a cheeseburger.

And of course, everyone knows that a good Christian should give to the needy. But that doesn’t make you a Christian.

As Christians I think we are constantly told this whole list of things that do not make you a Christian. Reading the Bible is good. Praying, also good. There are many good things that Christians should do. None of which makes one a Christian. That begs the question… if those things don’t, what does?

Well, most churches will tell you that you can’t earn it. It’s a gift. And this is clear. And most churches will also tell you that it really just comes down to believing a fairly specific and agreed upon set of things and affirming that belief. The better churches will also say that repentance is a key component. But not all.

Ok. Then what about all these things that don’t make you a Christian? The way it seems, is that they are all pretty much optional. Sure it’s a good idea to do them. But you cannot earn your salvation, so doing these things clearly cannot save you.

But there is something else that I know in my heart. A person cannot simply affirm a set of facts and then go about their life and expect anything to come of it. I am convinced that being a Christian is not the result of a one-time event or decision. Sure, that’s where it starts. But if that’s where it ends, then it truly does end. I think it can also be discarded at a later time. But that gets into the weeds. Let me just say that I would surely not wish to bet on the outcome of making that particular choice.

I have often thought that living as a Christian isn’t so much about where you are at morally or spiritually, as it is which direction you are moving. I think being a Christian is about moving toward God. Getting closer. Putting behind us things that are not from Him. This of course takes effort. Effort and sacrifice.

Sacrifice? What is that you say? Yep. While salvation is a free gift from God. It will literally cost you everything. Because that’s what it’s about. Only when we give up all the ungodly things we continually clutch to, all the things we think we want, can these temporary things be replaced with eternal things that are so much better. Of course this is a fantastic opportunity for us. But letting loose of things that we are comfortable with in favor of what is essentially unknown to us just seems so counterintuitive.

You have to give to get? That is a truth found throughout the Bible. Jesus is even quoted as saying this very thing twice in the book of Matthew.

“He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.”

The only way you can really have life is to give it up. That’s a hard pill to swallow. Hey, I thought it was free?

Here’s what I think. God did all the work. He came and died a horrible death at the hands of His own creation. Just so that we could have this path to life. He did the hard stuff.

When you hear people say… that all you need to do is “accept” this free gift. I don’t think God ever intended it as a singular event. As a matter of fact I’m sure He didn’t. I think that the act of accepting it is truly a lifelong process. And this ongoing process of accepting it results in us giving up our lives in exchange for what He is truly offering us.

I recently had pretty much this whole discussion with a friend. And when asked what I thought was the answer, here’s what I said. I think that the answer to all these questions and living in a way that truly does “make one a Christian” is the by-product and natural inevitable result of an ongoing relationship with Jesus.

Ok, and what on earth does that mean? I ran across a verse that drove this home a few days ago. I realize the truth I gleaned from this was not the full meaning of what was being said. But it was a pretty good nugget. It was a promise. And it starts like this:

“If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you…”. You know, I think that kinda sums it up. There are a bunch of cools things in the Bible that we get where those are the actual requirements. And what does that mean? I figure it means that we regularly spend time talking to God. And we regularly spend time in the Bible. That covers both abiding in Him, and His words abiding in us. And that’s what actually constitutes the “relationship”.

Honestly… I’ve heard pieces of this my entire life as well. And I’ve practiced it to varying degrees. But I just happened to put it together in my head for the first time in quite awhile. Figured I would share. While I started out talking about the things that don’t make you a Christian (and might seem optional)… the relationship with Jesus is the one thing that is not optional. Particularly since all the rest of the things are a result of that. And it would follow that doing the things that actually cultivate and foster that relationship are way more than just a good idea.

FTM-100 repair

Still waiting to get my Yaesu FTM-100DR back from the Yaesu repair shop. I am very curious to see if they will even acknowledge that it has a problem. Honestly, when it comes back I’m not even sure that I will use it. It really boils down to whether or not I decide to go back to running WiRES-X. I do know that I really like not having a laptop on the desk. And since the only reason for the laptop is to run WiRES-X… it makes the idea of using a hotspot instead very attractive.

Below, you can hear the recording of the problem that caused me to send my radio to Yaesu for repair. It happens when receiving data via WiRES-X. And it happens even with the volume all the way down.

New blogging setup

I used to have a “personal website” back in the day. And I played with that quite a lot. But that whole concept seemed to go away at some point. I probably milked it for awhile too long, but I eventually chose to setup a blog to replace my personal web site. The free Google Blogger product seemed like a good choice.

I used that for years, and my wife even made a few of her own blog posts. But we never really took it seriously. I suspect very few people read any of it.

But at some point I sprung for a nice blogging app for macOS. And it worked with Google’s Blogger product. At least until a couple of weeks ago. I had wiped the drive on my Mac and was running into problems reconfiguring this blogging app with the Blogger service. It was just refusing to work.

After the author pretty much gave up trying… he suggested I switch to a better blogging service. I thought that was a fine idea!

It was probably less than 24 hours later… I have a managed WordPress site at my own domain with an actual site security certificate. And it’s pretty dirt cheap.

I migrated my two old Blogger blogs into the new WordPress site. And the blogging app that wouldn’t work with Blogger, works very nicely with WordPress!

Ham radio, again

Back in February I made the decision to jump back into amateur radio. I’ve had an extra class license for a number of years. So I have the maximum privileges. And I just renewed it for another ten.

I dropped a pretty good load of cash on a bunch of new gear. Probably the biggest piece of the expenditure is an HF setup that I haven’t even used yet.

This is partly due to laziness. It’s also partly due to being so entertained with the other gear that I bought that I haven’t really been wanting for more to keep me busy.

The HF setup I have uses an outdoor portable-style antenna. I did this because we have antenna restrictions where we live. While I’m not allowed to have a permanent antenna outdoors, I can’t see that it would be a problem to have one that I setup and take down each time I use it.

So this is what I have. But that actually presents a bit of a barrier to actually using the thing. All my other gear is setup to where I can just sit down and use it any time I like. But the HF rig, I have to hassle with setting the antenna up each time. So I haven’t done it yet.

Another aspect is… I have never really understood how to operate on HF. And conditions aren’t good these days. I am really expecting that it will be a frustrating experience when I do get around to trying it. For many this is the most fun part of the hobby. For me… I haven’t spent enough time doing it to really get the hang of it yet.

On the other hand… virtually all of the other gear that I bought is oriented to digital communications via the internet. Yes, some will say that this isn’t “radio”. But the fact is, it has four things that are very much in the spirit of amateur radio.

First, I am talking into a radio on my end. And the person I’m talking to is typically talking into a radio on their end. So we still get to play with the cool gear. It’s really a minor technicality that it’s the internet that is connecting us.

Second, this form of digital communications has the aspect of enabling conversations with interesting people around the world. And for me, that has always been the most appealing aspect of ham radio. Good conversation!

Third, when using these digital modes there is really plenty of tinkering around to do. Sure, maybe there is more computer tech and less radio tech. But it’s still tinkering all the same.

Fourth, there is the aspect of a cohesive community. Hams helping hams has a long tradition. And with many internet groups dedicated to this digital communication tech, there is plenty of opportunity to learn and help others learn.

One major difference between these digital modes that use the internet vs HF, is that communicating via the internet is quite reliable. It is not dependent on solar conditions or propagation. Whereas operating HF is very hit and miss. In my experience, one can operate for hours without even making one contact. 

There is no doubt that I will be trying out my HF gear before too long. Maybe even today. I do know that I picked out some good gear. And it ought to be a lot of fun. My challenge will be learning the appropriate operating procedures for the mode. People do things differently on HF.

Regardless, so far my foray back into ham radio has been a lot of fun. There are so many things to learn that I think the process could go on for quite awhile.

Ham shack

I recently decided to jump back into amateur radio with both feet. This last weekend I picked up a bunch of gear. And I have a couple of radios still on their way. Our little home office (man cave) is now looking like an actual ham shack.

Previous to this, I was using a couple of raspberry pi VoIP nodes to do IRLP, AllStarLink, and echolink. I was using a handheld transceiver to utilize this. Well, I unplugged that stuff and decided I would try some new things.

 Here is a list of my new capabilities:

  • I now have a regular VHF/UHF dual-band dual-receive mobile rig as part of my shack. This is an improvement.
  • I now have HF. And a very capable radio at that. Unfortunately I am stuck with a definite compromise for an antenna in that I will be using something small, portable, and temporary. I will set it up outside when I want to use it. And take it down when I am not. I have very little choice about this due to neighborhood restrictions. Although the antenna situation may evolve into something better if I get creative.
  • I’ve added D-Star capability. I built a little D-Star hotspot using a raspberry pi with a DVAP. And I obtained a new handheld transceiver that has D-Star capability. 
  • I have also added WiRES-X capability. To do this right I went ahead and ordered the official WiRES-X interface box and a node radio. One downside is, this forces me to run Windows on my desktop computer system. This will be a big change. I’m not that happy about this aspect. Luckily I already had my Mac setup to dual boot. So it’s doable. 

Most people reading this probably don’t know what these things are. Here is some explanation:

  • HF is a mode that uses radio frequencies to potentially communicate with other hams around the world. Signals bounce off the ionosphere. 
  • VHF/UHF is pretty much local only. It’s a line-of-sight mode that uses repeater systems located at high elevations to communicate with others. 
  • D-Star and WiRES-X are digital modes that are directly supported by radio manufacturers. These modes use UHF/VHF as described above. In addition, they use the internet to link repeaters (or private nodes) together. This facilitates long distance communications where one can talk to individuals and groups of users around the world. There are typically radios and repeaters on each end of the connection, with internet in between.