Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Artificial Intelligence: What Is Mankind’s Responsibility?

Parsing all unstructured data that exists. Is that too high a shelf to reach? What type of machines and programs will it take to achieve this lofty goal? What happens whenever our machines begin to outgrow their human creators?

These are all concepts that seem to be plots for a new science fiction movie. And yet, we are today facing these challenges. Some of us will shirk away and say that it isn’t time to decide these issues. We’ll pretend that it can be properly dealt with at some future moment in time.

However, as we move more into a future where machines are freely utilized in every aspect of our lives, we must establish a clear foundation for how machines should be treated. Do they have rights? Do they have the right to life, liberty and freedom? If we cannot answer these questions as a society, then we may waste valuable years and untold amounts of money grappling with these questions as the Human Race moves into its future. 

Instead of moving forward into our full potential with assurance, various factions of our society could be hamstrung in their efforts to decide these weighty issues. Therefore, the best course of action is to decide these essential matters right now.

What’s at Stake?

As a race of intelligent beings, we must consider the pros and cons of allowing machines the right of free expression and equality before the law. The expression, Intelligent Life, carries with it the idea that all sentient beings are alive. That means they can be sensible, logical, perceptive, shrewd and even wise. But it could also mean that these machines could make irrational decisions based upon criteria that might be buried beneath layers of learned responses.

If these topics seem too expansive to fully grasp, then that makes them even more critical to understand. Because machines don’t have the advantage of being born into a human family. They don’t get years of formative growth where they learn that fire can be used for good or for bad. That water is life to humans, but too much water can take away lives. They don’t have the advantage of loving parents to guide their decision-making and help them develop better skills.

How This Effects Day-to-Day Life

Corporations around the globe are searching for solutions to the massive theft of data. Medical records have become a particular target of interest to hackers all over the world. That’s because most medical records contain every single piece of data about the individual. Not just a name and address is lost, but the person’s social security number, driver’s license number and their medical history. With information like this in the hands of unscrupulous hackers, there’s no limit to the ways they can manipulate it.

Why Do We Need to Create These Machines?

Businesses and corporations around the world are literally at the mercy of these hackers. In spite of our laws to protect PII and PHI, we still lose records at the incredible rate of 68 records per second.

Machines can parse data at an unbelievable rate. We need their help to stem the growing tide of data breach across the world. And the technology does exist to manage these threats. But what if, in our efforts to protect our personal and business data, we create a machine that rivals human intelligence?

These are questions better left to the experts. That’s what many readers may be thinking. But every voice matters and every opinion can shed light on the best course of action. One thing is for sure: The sooner we settle these problems, the sooner we can put an end to the large-scale theft of data.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

The Old Farm House

As I rode in the back seat with my siblings, we bounced with glee, with a little help from the road. On the right of the dirt road we travel stands a massive hill covered with trees and fallen leaves. To the left lays a pasture, brown house and dead-looking; a creek, that empties into the lake; and a twin hill on the right.
As we close the distance between the cattle guard and the ancient two-story house, the scent of country drifts into the car. The sweet smell of burning wood and the faint aroma of animals can be caught off the wind. The trees on the hillsides are bare of leaves, the ground, cluttered shin-deep with the fallen foliage. The trees are bare enough to be a child’s stick drawings.
            The smell of smoke strengthens as we approach the driveway. The old wooden rail fence we pass looks to be grown, not built. The driveway is just two dirt paths with protruding rocks, and grass growing between the paths.
            The house has wide stairs that lead to a large porch. Its bordered by a waist-high rock wall that stands at the base of a hill. As I climb the stairs, the creak and sudden snap of the screen door bring my head up to see my grandmother.
            After the hugs and hellos, we enter the house. The wide strips of the wood floor are glass smooth. I can’t wait to take my shoes off.

            Standing at the front door, the kitchen lies to the left through a wide doorway with no door. At the back of the kitchen are two doors. One door leads to a bedroom. The other door leads to the dungeon-like basement, always cold and damp. To the right of the front door burns the warmly glowing wood, below the massive gray stone mantle.
At the back of this room, there are two more doors. One door leads to the other bedroom. The second door leads to the attic which has been turned into a third bedroom. The stairs, dark and steep, have claimed many falls over the years. The attic, with its triangular shape, is clean; however, the scent of it not being used in quite some time, tickles the nose. 

Curtain-less windows adorn both ends of the room, and the single light fixture, mounted in the center of the room, right where the ceiling meets, is not bright enough to compete with the gray light of this late fall day.
            When my brother and I leave the house to go out and play, I see the big red barn. It has a pigsty attached to the back and a high metal rail fence encompassing the barnyard. The steady trickle of the spring emptying into the creek brings my attention to the old weather-worn hay barn. I know the hay barn, not quite full, holds many adventures for us.

            I see the old milking house, white with dark streaks, and remember thinking that it has been empty too long. Beyond the milking house lies the huge garden from which, in the late spring, the smell of fresh vegetables can be tasted off the air.       
Today, many of the structures and trees do not stand. They’ve been torn or cut down by new owners. Although I haven’t had the heart to see what the Old Farm has become, I will always remember it on those late fall days.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Life’s Too Short, And All That!

When I was 17, I left home and never went back. Sometimes you love your family but you know that you simply can not be the best version of yourself if your family is around. Mine was highly dysfunctional! Batshit crazy! So I went on without them.

Of course, we got back together within a few years and things improved. But this same thing happened to me later in life. I was in some toxic relationships and had to make the choice between staying with family or saving my sanity.

Well, that was 16 years ago and I’ve been on my own for all these years. I work each day, pay my own bills and take care of my personal needs. I cook each day, do laundry—even vacuum on special occasions (like I can’t find the couch for the enormous dust balls).

You always have that little bit of guilt though because you left your family behind. Then I met that psychiatrist the other day. Her whole practice is about teaching people that many of their mental and emotional problems are related to their family and past family experiences.

The solution to getting well is leaving them. Just separate yourself from your family and pretend they no longer exist. Don’t feel guilty if they gripe because you missed Thanksgiving or Christmas. You deserve to have a happy wonderful Thanksgiving and Christmas. You don’t have to go over there and put up with bickering and criticism.

Ignore them. Leave them. Never go back. Don’t feel guilty. Life’s too short and all that.

When I was 12, I started saving money to buy luggage. When mama saw the store layaway receipt she asked me, “Hey why are you buying luggage?”

I said, “I’m planning to run away from home so I need it to put my things in.”

So she shrugged and went about her business. I got my luggage out of layaway a few months later and sure enough, left home at 17.

I was certain by the age of 8 that I was born into the wrong family. I should have been born into a family of writers and musicians. Very intelligent people with common sense. I could have flourished under those circumstances. Sadly, as the Rolling Stones figured out some years ago, “You don’t always get what you want.”

I don’t know why God gives some people a simply wonderful family full of loving people who help and encourage each other. While other people get Troglodytes, people with no understanding, intelligence or compassion. It’s a mind-boggling topic so let’s don’t even go there.

All I know is that it usually takes a lot of courage to do the right thing. And the “right thing” isn’t always what you think it is. Have I lived my best possible life? No, not at all! But I’ve survived and sometimes that’s all there is.

I know a few weeks ago a big moth flew in the patio door and went to light on my bedroom curtains. It seemed ill. Lots of insects come to my house after being sprayed with insect spray. Apparently, the word is out on the streets that my house is a safe haven for wounded insects. I don’t kill spiders, bees and wasps. They’re beneficial insects that God created for a purpose.

So one time a big spider rushed through the back door who had just been sprayed with poison. He went to my extra room baseboard near the chest of drawers. He stayed there for a long time and I was sure he was going to recover, but he died.

A wasp came in one time and lit on the light shade by the TV. He was there for a week or so and finally got well and flew back out. I haven’t seen him since but wish him well.

Then a few weeks ago, this large gray moth came in and went right to my bedroom curtains. I watched it for a few days but it didn’t move. Then after a few weeks, I concluded that it had died. It was sad…such a lovely gray moth.

I went to gather up its remains and take them back outside but decided to say a few words over it first: “Sometimes all you can do is give a Being a quiet, safe place to die,” I whispered. And then I took it outside and scattered its remains on the grass.

My life hasn’t turned out like I thought it would but it has been an interesting journey. At the end of it all, I just want a quiet, safe place to die. That’s all.

Friday, September 13, 2019

I Found This Thumb Drive with Hurricane Photos on It

I was going thru some old thumb drives. I like to do that from time to time. You never know what you’ll find. I found these photos of hurricane Gustav, New Orleans, 2008.

I really loved returning to New Orleans. I hadn’t been there since 2004, hurricane Katrina, and then, it was such a mess! So much chaos. I was thankful to leave. But always wondered how the rebuilding was going. We kept hearing stories that the politicians were stealing the money meant for victims of the hurricane.

I stayed in a hotel across the highway from the stadium (Gustav). OMG! Could I tell you some stories about that stadium. Since I had been a first responder to Katrina, I saw everything! Not just what the news people wanted to show you. Then when I went back to New Orleans for Gustav, I was hoping to see the city rebuilt and looking sharp. It was a lot better but it would be years before it was totally fixed.

The neighborhood we were in had been slum housing where gangs would shoot, knife and murder each other each week (Gustav).

In Katrina, as you probably know, there were NO hotels that survived. They eventually got some of them cleaned up and open in suburbs like Kenner. But of course, there were over 10,000 disaster workers there. So there were never any vacancies.

The Red Cross always shows up first to any disaster. Nobody beats them! Then FEMA gets there—that was me. Then the Small Business Administration shows up. They’ll be there offering low interest loans to people who want to rebuild their homes.

At first, nobody wanted to return to New Orleans and rebuild (Katrina). Well, almost nobody. I met this guy in Chalmette. He and his wife were in their 60’s, probably retired. They had a pretty nice 3/2 with a lovely lawn, rose bushes etc. They were trying to rebuild only a month after Katrina. I told the guy that it would be impossible because the closest hardware store was in Baton Rouge and the shelves were empty there. So where would you buy sheetrock and 2x4's? Forgeddaboudit!

That toxic mud that covered Chalmette killed everything including the small animals and insects. I bet it was a month before I ever saw one bird. 

The toxic mud was from the Murphy Oil spill (Katrina). The oil mixed with the grasses and snakes in the nearby wetlands and turned it into a thick mixture of dead grass, mud, oil and other chemicals. We had to wade through this stuff every day. I know some funny stories about the toxic mud too.

So we got the call to return to New Orleans when hurricane Gustav came through and we went. Like I said, we stayed in a fairly new hotel that was across the highway from the stadium. The new disaster people would work all day and party all night, but me? I worked all day, then came home and collapsed, like a normal person would do.

I had to share a room with this guy. He’s in one of these pictures. He flirted like crazy, probably thinking we were going to sleep together since we shared a room. But I like to keep it all business when I’m working.  Once I get home, if you wanna go party, I’m in. But work is work…especially if it’s disaster work. There are so many opportunities to get hurt each day. You have to be on your toes.

Hurricane work is hard. Every single day you see dead animals, ruined furniture, destroyed houses—everyone should go to an area right after a big storm and do disaster relief for a few days. It gives you a whole new appreciation for what it means to lose everything you own.

I’m totally off topic! Anyway, I enjoyed my time in New Orleans during the Gustav relief work, but I hated Katrina. She took everything. It would have been great if she’d left a hotel and a good restaurant—and a gas station -- so work wouldn’t have been so difficult. But she didn’t. 

Most of us survived and came home from both hurricanes. We have a lot of memories, photos and stories and every hurricane season is a time of heightened anxiety for us.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

How Flawed Are You on a Scale From One to Ten?

God blessed me with parents who were flawed. They had weaknesses they were never able to conquer. Still I loved them. My parents were ordinary people; there was nothing at all exceptional about them. My dad drove a taxi in downtown Dallas for years.

My mom was a waitress at Bob White’s Barbecue over by White Rock Lake. Daddy once had an affair with a well-known stripper downtown. Momma once stole a package of ham from the Winn-Dixie.

I knew all their weaknesses when I was still just a little girl playing out in the street with my brothers. I knew mama drank too much and daddy had a gambling problem. I still loved them.

I remember when Daddy was dying – he lived in Tyler so we had to make a 2 hour trip to see him. But we went at least once a month. We spent time with daddy. We went out to Luby’s to eat. We went to the store and bought groceries. I still remember all those times we spent with daddy when he just had 4 or 5 months left to live.

A lot of stuff has happened to me throughout my life. I always think about my parents. What would they say or how would they handle this? All you have to do is figure that out then do the opposite. Because my parents never made good choices. They always screwed up.

I knew all that at a young age, but I still loved them so much. I cared if they were sick or lonely. I think that’s one thing I miss the most about this part of my life. No one cares about me. No one cares if I live or die. It’s a lonely feeling. It’s hard to admit. I wish it wasn’t true. But I’ve always been true to myself so I have to admit that no one really knows me at all – but it finally stopped mattering to me.

I once cared a lot about all this shit. It really would bother me to work so hard to be an amazing mom and then just be completely rejected AND for no fucking reason (pardon the word—it fits here).

The one thing that stands out is that I always believed that you reap what you sow. But I look around and that isn’t true. Men who have lied, cheated, stolen, assaulted women—they’re running some of our biggest companies. Are they reaping what they’ve sown? No! They’re miserable human beings with no integrity but they’re ultra wealthy. So try and figure that out.

Why do they teach us at church that you reap what you sow? What’s your evidence to support this statement? Why in hell should I believe that?

So many questions, so little time. I leave you with this: If you don’t have any flawed, imperfect people in your life, then go out and get some!

When all your friends are sweet Christian people who would never do anything wrong—when none of your friends has anything in their lives they can’t master – then you aren’t going to learn anything important from those people.

You learn something valuable from people like my parents. Ask ME how divorce feels or how it feels to come near to dying but survive—how it feels inside a Category 4 hurricane. Ask me about raising kids—about being left behind. About striving for something your whole life only to have it just out of your reach.

I can tell you so much about Dallas, about canning, about gardening, about writing—but I don’t know anything about love or relationships. How is that possible? I’m hoping it’s more common than most people think—that way, I won’t be a total freak!

But, if that indeed is what I am, then may I accept my fate with grace. That’s all we can do at the end of the day. Just try to go out with some dignity and grace.

So here's the Big Question: How flawed are you on a scale of 1 to 10?

Be honest, now!! LOL!

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Do Preachers Make Too Much Money?

I’ve been a Christian for 50 years. During that time, I’ve been in countless church meetings, conferences and Christian events. We always prayed and tried to choose a good church that taught the Bible wherever we lived. In all those years, I can’t tell you how many church services I was in where the preacher/pastor taught and encouraged people to give.

I get the reason for that. They’ve got a light bill and rent to pay. But as the years rolled on, the message changed from simple teaching about the benefits of giving your tithe each week to ludicrous messages. Preachers would actually encourage people to send them $1000. They would all but promise that if you would make this type of sacrifice, then God would certainly reward you with a big financial breakthrough.

They had so many stories about people who had done this and gotten huge cash windfalls. Of course, my husband and I were never in a place where we could send that much, but we did faithfully give larger amounts than we could really afford.

All these years later, I look back on that and I see it for what it really was and is. We made those preachers into multi-millionaires. And most of us never got that spectacular financial windfall.

What they should have taught is to give yourself away—not your money! Give yourself to your family, your friends and your neighbors. That’s what Jesus did. He didn’t send some ministry a lot of money! He gave HIMSELF away!

He laid it all on the line! And He did so that each of us could be reconciled to our Creator…so that our sins could be washed away. Imagine someone like me—with all the things I’ve done throughout my life—imagine if God would give me a clean slate. That’s what happened. All my sins were forgiven and God gave me a fresh start. And He continues to do that each and every day-because I haven’t stopped making mistakes.

As long as we live in these earthly suits of flesh, we will all screw up from time to time. And we will need to be newly forgiven all over again. That’s grace. That’s how it works.

If only those preachers would have taught us what Jesus taught, think of how different the world would be right now. Millions of Christians around the world helping their neighbors, volunteering at the children’s hospital, bringing food and blankets to the poor and homeless.

That’s what ALL Christians should have been doing all these years. Instead, we sent our money to those preachers and now they all live in huge mansions. They have airplanes and expensive cars and servants. The congregations they are responsible for still live in crappy neighborhoods and drive used cars. We still buy our clothes at Ross or Goodwill. What they taught us was a lie.

If we will begin NOW to go out into the world and love people—if we will search for people who need help and help them—if we will give OURSELVES away, then God will help us and bless us. He’s waiting for us to get a clue. And a few people do; I don’t want to minimize what some Christians and organizations are doing across the world.

But the individual Christians are still sitting at home listening to a message about how they can live their best life. They’re not out in the highways and byways trying to help some poor struggling family.

If only a small portion of the Christian church could get this revelation, the world could be turned upside down in a few years. I don’t know that this will happen. I pray it will, but realistically speaking, it probably won’t. It’s just too easy to sit at home and listen to messages or read books about how you can become a successful business owner.

It’s hard to get up, go out into the world and touch the untouchables.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

How I Got Where I Am Today

How did I get here? If you've ever been lost, you know the feeling.

For most of my life, people didn’t understand me. When I married and had a daughter, I was sure I’d have at least have 2 people who would love me unconditionally. But sometimes life doesn’t work out like you want it to.

My daughter became rebellious at age 15. She ran away from home and told all her friends that my husband and I were abusing her so they wouldn’t tell where she was and so she could get their sympathy. She became addicted to getting sympathy from people. My mother was like this too. She would tell you whatever you needed to hear so you’d feel sorry for her.

Over the years my daughter has told many lies about me to people that have been very embarrassing. She once told the pastor at our church that we were drug users and since we were teaching a class of middle school kids, we lost that position, not to mention everyone’s respect. Rumors get around fast in a small church. She did this because she was angry at me and my husband because we would not help her get a car.

Throughout her life, my daughter has blamed everything on me. Even when her husband was accused of raping our granddaughter, she found a way to blame ME for the whole incident. I was at home baking cookies for my other grandchildren. I was nowhere near the alleged event and went into shock the moment I heard about it because me and my granddaughter were so close. I couldn’t believe anyone would hurt such a beautiful little girl.

My daughter and her husband packed all their things and ran away in the middle of the night which is what guilty people do. She took my grandchildren (except for the girl) away to another state and she gradually poisoned their minds toward me. After 20 years of brainwashing, my grandkids don’t know me at all. They don’t come to see me. They know nothing about me now. Not one of them has ever read anything I’ve written and I’ve been a writer since I was a little girl.

Because of the alleged rape and police investigation, I suffered for some years with an emotional breakdown. My husband and I got divorced. He tried to be a good father to my daughter but she was always ungrateful, angry and self-absorbed. Since he wasn’t her biological father, he decided to just walk away from the whole situation. I wish I could do that too. I’ve dreamed of ways I could do that for many years.

For most of my life I was an excellent wife, homemaker, mother and grandmother. For the last 20 years, I’ve been a broken, lonely sad person and I have my daughter to thank for all this.

I felt that the best way to handle her rebellion and lies was to just keep loving her and praying for her. But I was wrong. I should have stood up to her and called her out for every single lie! Now it’s too late. You can’t go back in time and change things and make things right.

The only person who has steadfastly stood by me during all these trials was Jesus. I know religion and Christians are very shady these days. But I can’t speak for every Christian. I can just tell you that I would have sliced my wrists and died 20 years ago when my daughter took my grandkids away without even allowing us to say good-bye.

But God stepped in and began repairing all the damage. He helped me rebuild my life. It’s a very lonely life but I do have a nice place to live, nice furniture and things. I always have the money to pay the bills on time. I wear upscale clothing, jewelry and shoes. God has provided very well for me. But I’d trade it all in a heartbeat to have my family love me again like they once did.

You think you’re indispensable and that your family couldn’t go on without you but it isn’t true. I was very easy to leave behind. For the remainder of my life, I must be content with the fact that I do have a home and family in heaven. I will pass from this earth one day soon and be welcomed into heaven by my parents and siblings. I’ll see my aunts, old friends—there will be lots of people there who love me and there will be no lies, deceit or evil there.

I rest in these eternal rewards that lay in store for me. I will find no peace or comfort here on this earth, but I do look forward to my heavenly future.

Here's my short story called: How I Got Where I am Today - It's about 2 boys who grow up together but their lives take a very different direction. It's fiction.