Posted in Life

Nine reasons I’m looking forward to autonomous cars

As I was driving around today, I thought of a number of reasons why I will enjoy autonomous cars on the road in the near future.

  • These cars will use signals for all right and left turns and lane changes. I know I’m not the only one dismayed by the rare use of the turn signal.
  • Self-driving cars will not roll through stop signs nor will they run red lights. I pause when the light turns green. Too many cars have sped across my path in defiance of a red light.
  • No autonomous cars will be riding my butt on the highway. They will maintain a safe and reasonable distance behind me. That will be refreshing.
  • That’s because they will be driving the speed limit. They will not be pushing the envelope to see how fast they can go.
  • Self-driving cars will not cut me off in town or on the highway. They will not weave in and out through traffic.
  • They will park amazingly well. Straight and between the lines. What, no dings on the door? And not on my front lawn.
  • They will go when the light turns green. Self-driving cars will not be distracted by phones or kids, but will pay attention to the traffic signals.
  • No autonomous car will be driving fifteen miles per hour below the highway speed limit either.
  • And they will all know where they are going. They won’t ignore wrong way signs and turn into incoming traffic. They won’t crawl through town looking for a street. GPS will guide them right where they need to go.

We’ll be in self-driving cars sooner than we think. Is that a good thing? We’ll soon find out.

Posted in Life

Behind locked doors

Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

I had to go to a lawyer’s office yesterday to sign a piece of paper. It wasn’t out of my way. I went there while running some other errands in the area.

The office was located in a large suite of offices. At least six buildings surrounded a large parking lot, each housing twelve professional offices.

I found the right one without any trouble. As I walked in the door, I expected to see a nice entrance to a law office. Once inside, though, I found two white doors and a stairway leading up the stairs. The firm’s name was etched on a simple black plastic sign on one of the doors. At least I was in the right place.

When I tried the door, it was locked. I had called ahead of time and they told me when they would be open. Puzzle, I read the very small sign over the doorknob, “Ring for entrance.” I pushed the button, expecting an electronic lock to open for me. When I tried the door again – nothing.

I heard someone talking from inside. They must have been on the phone. They said, “Can you hold on a minute?” About fifteen seconds later, the bolt turned and the door opened. A friendly face greeted me. “How can I help you?”

I explained who I was and followed her in. The office was nice but simple. Not nearly as fancy as I expected. It wasn’t a rough part of town, but I suppose you have to be careful. You don’t want just anyone walking in the door unless you’re expecting them. More and more places keep their doors locked.

I’ve encountered locked doors when I’ve stopped by doctor’s offices, churches during the week, certain floors of a hospital, hotel fitness rooms, and some public bathrooms. I wish so many good things didn’t have to be secured behind locked doors.

Posted in Life, grandfather, grandparenting

A remarkable find: the skeleton of a dead lizard

“There’s something in here!”

My four-year-old grandson decided to get into the ball basket on our porch. He still fits, but just barely. To fit, he had to toss out each ball, and work his way to the bottom of the 2×2 foot basket.

He threw out fuzzy snowballs from some Christmas in the past. Plastic baseballs we used to hit in the yard. Pimple balls – inflatable balls covered with little bumps. Various colored balls that every grandchild played with as babies. Balls that light up when you bounce them on the ground. A couple of soccer balls we kick around the backyard. A little basketball with dog teeth marks in it. Little balls that roll down chutes.

He unearthed Andy and Annie (from Toy Story). And “something.” He was almost at the bottom of the basket when he came upon something he couldn’t identify.

I went over to see what he had found. It was awesome. It was the dried skeletal remains of a lizard.

Yes, this is awesome on many levels.

First, it means that the lizard who had been living on our porch, who we could never catch or expel for the porch, was an ex-lizard.

Second, just look at this guy. You can see his whole skeleton. LIttle boys and grandpas get a lot of joy from skeletons, lizard, dinosaur, or human.

Third, he’s dried and preserved. We could take him home and keep him along with other treasures we’ve accumulated. We’ll put him on a shelf or in a drawer. Mom will never find out.

Have you ever gone to a museum or a science center to see the dinosaur skeletons? They are huge, awesome, and memorable. On a smaller scale, we have our own dinosaur-esque bones. We can start our own museum or road-side attraction!

I think this is one of the reasons grandfathers are so important. Moms will scream, “Get that thing out of here. Now go wash your hands!” Grandmothers will call for grandfathers to take care of the skeletal invaders. Dads will say, “Go ask your mom if you can keep it.” But grandpa (aka moi) will come up with all kinds of cool reasons why you should take it home and keep it.

Posted in Life

A close encounter of the garage door kind

This is a brand new house in our neighborhood. With a brand new dent in the garage door. A work van, an SUV, and a pickup truck are usually parked in the three-car-wide driveway. The van usually occupies this spot.

I can’t help but wonder about the moment this happened.

  • You thought you had shifted into reverse, but you were in drive. A little tap on the gas and BOOM, you’ve smashed in the door.
  • It’s late. It’s dark. No moon in the sky. No one left the outside light on. And you were looking at your phone. It’s the perfect recipe for a close encounter with the garage door.
  • A few too many Coronas for Cinco de Mayo? Actually, I think it’s a Russian family. More likely a little too much vodka.
  • Did someone lose their temper? “Oh no you don’t. You aren’t going to lock me out the house.”
  • “This is a hurricane-proof door. Look, I show you. I’ll bring the bumper of the van right up to the door and you’ll see, it won’t buckle at all.”
  • “I told you there was something wrong with the brakes!”

Posted in Life

The miracle of this new day

When my bible study leader spoke a class-opening prayer, he thanked God for “the miracle of this new day.” For some reason, those words touched me and I jotted them down. How often do I consider “today” to be a miracle?

Today would not be, had not God created the first day and set time in motion. Today – any day – is a testimony to the Creator. Today – every day – is unlike any other. It never existed before. It will never happen again. When I wake up each morning, I don’t have to be on the lookout for miracles. I am in the miracle.

I would not be, had not God knit me together within my mother, and given me life and breath and everything else. When I wake up each morning, I don’t have to wonder if miracles still happen. My life is the miracle.

I suppose it’s easy to forget “the miracle of this new day” when you have woken up every morning for the last ten or forty or eighty years or more. I’ve gotten used to it. It doesn’t feel special.

So this simple petition is powerful. If this new day is miraculous, and my life is a miracle, then the miracle worker himself is alive and well and still at work in the world and in my life.

Posted in Life

You’re not going to let a little rain spoil the game, are you?

It was an amusing scene at the t-ball fields the other night. Ten soaking-wet little boys were standing on the diamond in the rain. No one looked very happy to be there.

The other team valiantly tried to hit the ball off the tee. When someone made contact, the ball didn’t go very far, slowed by the wet grass and infield mud.

On each side, fans got wetter and colder, crowded under umbrellas, wondering when the coaches would call the game.

The coaches kept running through the lineup, teeing up the ball as the darker clouds moved across the sky. Every once in a while, they would look at each other, shrug, and bring up the next batter.

Finally, one coach waved his hand across his neck to stop the game. The thankful crowd rushed toward their cars.

The excited players made a beeline for the snacks. That’s what they came for and they were not about to be denied, no matter how bad the weather!

Posted in Life

Look at all those helicopters!

Helicopters fill the skies. At least lately. With my grandson, a dog, and on a bike ride today, we’ve seen more helicopters lately. I hear them when they are far off. Sometimes they hover overhead. Other times they zip by in the air.

Sometimes it’s the medical helicopter going to a crash site or a trauma hospital. When I see or hear it, I always say a quick “Lord, have mercy” prayer. The folks who fly and staff those flights, as well as those they rescue, need our prayers.

Other times, it’s the local sheriff. Those helicopters fly slower, and circle around, usually looking for someone. I would not want to be one the run with someone up in the skies watching me.

Once in a while, some attack helicopters from the National Guard pass overhead. They move so fast that you’ll miss them if you aren’t paying attention. I am grateful for those who keep watch over our communities and nation.

I remember other helicopters that brought hundreds of gallons of water to put out fires near our community. It was a long time ago, but it was a scary time. I remember it well.

One day, I want to fly in a helicopter. I’ll probably be frightened out of my mind. But it will be really cool.

Posted in Life

“I was almost there”

Photo by FLY:D on Unsplash

The water felt wonderful as I stepped in. It felt as nice as I thought it would as I pushed off and glided through the water just a few inches from the bottom of the pool. Ribbons of sunlight made their way to the bottom of the pool as I blew out bubbles and sank closer to the hard pool surface below. I felt so relaxed as I floated along.

Just when I thought I had reached the far wall of the pool, I reached out and touched…nothing. The wall wasn’t there. So I reached out and brought my arms to my side, pushing myself forward into the blurry blue beyond. As I gently cut through the water, bursts of green and violet appeared as though someone were rinsing out a paintbrush. I drifted through clouds of color, no longer able to see the sunlight above or the bottom below.

Suddenly, it was as if a rainbow had exploded in the water. Colors were everywhere. I swam toward the teal, then the oranges, the indigo, and then the bright blue. I felt like I was trapped in a kaleidoscope, tumbling through every color and shape I ever knew. Up and down meant nothing. I reached towards the red, backed into the yellow, spun through the green, crawled along the blues.

I wanted to stay here forever. I felt something pulling at me, pulling backwards, pulling me away from this buffet of color. I tried to push the hands away. My lungs suddenly filled with air. I saw the sky, clouds, faces above me. “Are you OK?”

Reluctantly, I said, “Yes, I feel fine.” I laid there and said, “Am I OK?”

“We think you were down there for an hour. If the pool guy hadn’t seen you down there, you’d be…gone.”

I smiled. “No. I was almost there.”

Posted in fun

Is that a hippo?

I forgot to include this great moment from my trip to the zoo the other day.

As we walked around the African loop on our way to see the ostrich and rhinos, we spied a man fully outfitted in scuba gear, just about to enter the brown, muddy, murky, duckweed-covered water below. As he put on his mask and regulator, I couldn’t help but wonder, “What can he see down there?” I have no idea what was down there that needed repair.

Anyway, once we got a nice close-up view of one of the rhinos, we started walking toward the giraffes and saw lots of bubbles coming up from the brown, muddy, murky, duckweed-covered water. I knew it was the diver, but a few other people didn’t. I heard them wondering out loud, “What’s down there? What animal is that? Is it a hippo? I think it’s a hippo! Look, it’s a hippo!”

I kept my chuckles to myself. I guess they haven’t seen many hippos. They wouldn’t have seen them here since the Jacksonville Zoo doesn’t have any. And hippos don’t breathe underwater. If they are in the water, they typically wade or lay around with their eyes, nostrils, and ears just above the surface. Otherwise, the ones I’ve seen like to lay at the edge of the water.

I have seen hippos at other zoos and in the wild. We saw them on safari in Kenya. Since they are one of the most dangerous animals in Africa, armed guides kept an eye on them as we took pictures. If the hippos decided to get aggressive, we’d be escorted out of there. When they began bellowing at us, it was time to leave.

Now those are hippos

I did not spoil their fun and tell them about the scuba diver.