Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays’ take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘family

Love Rules

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Love rules the day. I was going to write a blog post this morning, and then a royal wedding showed up. The wedding of Harry and Meghan is so far away from my world, that I had no intention of bothering to watch it, despite the almost universal broadcast coverage being made available.

Cyndie wanted to watch it. Not long ago, we did a binge watching of early seasons of the show, “Suits,” where we came to feel Meghan Markle was someone we knew. She set an alarm so she could get up early to see the wedding.

I had no idea that I would end up having dreams of getting ready to view it in my parent’s bedroom in the house on Cedar Ridge Road in Eden Prairie, and that my dad would be there among others who had gathered. As dreams do, it later morphed to my being on a roadside curb looking to reserve some space with Cyndie’s brother, Steve, to watch the procession move past.

I woke almost every fifteen minutes after 5:00 a.m. and wondered when Cyndie was going to turn on the tv in our bedroom. Eventually, I heard her getting up and assumed she was going to sneak out to allow me to sleep. I let her know that she could turn it on here.

As the pageantry played out, we exchanged fun banter over the spectacle of the event. Then love burst forth in the form of one Michael Curry. The Most Rev. Michael Bruce Curry, the presiding bishop of the American Episcopal Church gave the perfect wedding sermon.

You can read the text online, as Kensington Palace released the transcript immediately following his delivery. However, it is his delivery, including small enhancements to the script, that is necessary viewing to grasp the full impact of emotion and truths of which he spoke.

Love is my “religion.” Remove all the technicalities of each and every religion with their variety of origin stories and various traditions, and beneath it all there is love.

Bishop Curry boiled it down nicely. Watch it. Then go out into the world and love.

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Written by johnwhays

May 19, 2018 at 8:19 am

First Ever

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This is the first time I ever tried to do this. In honor of Mother’s Day today, I have given Cyndie the day off and I have taken over the job of making her classic caramel rolls for the family brunch this morning.

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What an adventure. Just melt too much butter, a lot of Karo syrup, and way more brown sugar than can possibly be healthy, on the stove and then pour it in the pan(s). I lined one with nuts, first.

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Using a pre-made sweet dough cuts the job down to size, but what a challenge it was getting that sticky blob to roll flat and then stay formed for the cutting.

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Arranging the rolls in the pan is a guessing game of wondering how much the dough will rise before baking.

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With a little creative arranging, I got everything to fit.

I’ll be a nervous wreck in front of the oven, but the hard part is done.

Best wishes to all you mothers out there! I have great respect for all that you do.

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Written by johnwhays

May 13, 2018 at 6:00 am

Peaceful Presence

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With a perfectly timed explosion of lightning and thunder, our peaceful World Labyrinth Day came to a spectacular close last night. Prior to that, we had plenty of sun and warmth to walk the circuitous path of our 70-foot diameter, 11 circuit Chartes labyrinth nestled on the edge of our woods beside a horse pasture.

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Even though the “Walk as One at 1” in a global wave of peace was the primary reason for yesterday’s open house at Wintervale, it ended up being the chickens who stole the show.

The kids present wanted to climb inside the fence and feed the growing chicks delectable treats of dried worms and cracked corn right from their hands.

Although the young birds were a bit skittish over all the human energy present on our first visit, Cyndie took the kids back a little later and the chicks were much more interested in exploring the offerings.

Shortly after the last of family and friends had departed for the day, Cyndie and I made the rounds to bring hammocks and chair cushions inside. The sky was growing dark gray on the horizon.

We made the short trek to Clyde’s Corner for cheese burgers to cap off the end of a successful day, while the thunderstorm loomed large. Luckily, we had decided to wrangle the chicks back into the coop before we left.

The drive home was a light-show of streaking lightning bolts, many appearing to be hitting closer to us as the storm moved away. That had Delilah barking up her own storm to bring our exciting day to an appropriate end.

It started peacefully, and ended with quite a bang.

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April Fooling

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We get the joke. Today starts the fourth month of 2018, and despite the general trend of average warmth climbing around the globe, we woke to teeth-chattering cold. The clear sky overnight was wonderful for viewing the blue moon, but it also contributed to the drop in temperature.

We had a reading of 10°(F) before the sun came up. With the fresh coating of snow on the ground from Friday night’s storm, there is cold in the air, as well as radiating from the ground.

We’re not laughing.

It seems like the forest animals weren’t much interested in facing the cold, either. In a search for tracks around the full perimeter of our property, there were surprisingly few foot prints revealing activity. Based on the evidence we collected, a rabbit was the only critter moving around.

At least we know that it didn’t have any problems with dodging predators.

The cougar that growled near Cyndie and Delilah last week is likely long gone after its journey past our home. We did a search in the neighboring woods where the eery sounds came from last week, but did not find any hint of a foot print or disturbed snow where the drama played out.

In a long shot reaction, I mounted our trail camera to observe the trail closest to the area, but it only provided added evidence that nothing was moving around after the snow, except Delilah and me.

Yesterday, Cyndie unleashed a great weapon against cold and snow. She filled the house with the smells of fresh-baked buns and whipped together a couple of egg bakes for a family brunch today.

No foolin’.

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Written by johnwhays

April 1, 2018 at 9:27 am

Manipulating Neurochemistry

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How are your stress levels today? Don’t think about the answer. Feel it.

Cyndie and I have faced some questions about how we are doing lately. It hasn’t been as easy to answer as usual for us. It was a tough winter, but listing our grievances doesn’t feel good to share. It doesn’t paint the picture as accurately as we know it to be.

Our move to the country and accumulation of animals for which we need to tend has put distance between us and our friends and family. Some connections with people and activities have broken, and only a fraction of new local connections have sprouted in their place.

We have gained a brilliant wealth of new relationships with our animals, and precious though they are, it is not the same.

Yesterday we had an opportunity to drive the suburban roads again that consumed our everyday back when we lived in Eden Prairie. The dramatic contrast to our present-day environment was revealing.

Is it worth it? The struggles to cope with the never-ending challenges of weather and the unrelenting daily routine of required chores to care for our horses, chickens, dog, and cat? Some days, more than others. It’s life. It’s something we chose. (By the way, that’s a luxury –having the choice– that is not lost on us.)

Our challenges can be framed as onerous and laborious; burdens that could be lifted by giving up our animals and moving back to the conveniences and camaraderie of our life-long friends and families in the suburbs.

The difficulties of the last few months, and the years of owning and caring for our animals can also be framed as invigorating, rejuvenating, inspiring, and fulfilling. It is adventure of a very high order.

When we choose to frame the ups and downs of life in the positive, we manipulate our neurochemistry in healthy ways. That is a choice we have power to control. I spent an unfortunate number of years manipulating my biochemistry in the opposite direction by mentally framing my life in the negative.

We won’t prevent harsh realities from challenging our decisions by simply thinking positive all the time, but we will be better served to meet those challenges when we give our brains the healthiest balance of on-going positive neurochemical support possible.

Life here is challenging, but we are doing well. Really well. Thanks for asking.

It feels right.

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Voyage

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Finding Votograph

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Who’s up for a little fun and games?  I just so happen to know a guy who knows a guy at a local software development firm that created a new opportunity for phone-camera enthusiasts to enjoy some healthily addictive entertainment. My son, Julian Hays, and fellow developer Tyson Acker (currently answering from New Zealand’s time zone) agreed to be interviewed about the app they created called, “Votograph.”

Relative Something: How would you describe what Votograph is to someone who has never heard of it?

Julian Hays: Votograph is a social photo game for mobile devices. Players compete by submitting a photo that matches or somehow relates to a given challenge phrase. Players then vote on the best photo for each challenge. The player whose photo has the most votes when time is up wins the challenge.

Tyson Acker:  Votograph is a platform for all the photo nerds out there that has more of a game focus than other social media apps. You’re not merely sharing your photos–you’re trying to out-do your friends and family (or, in public groups, the entire world!) on a given topic. Users can either join ongoing public challenges or create private challenges of their own; in either case you have a specified length of time to submit a photo and vote for the best.

RS: So, just to clarify, when you say “mobile devices,” will Votograph run on tablets, in additions to phones, but not on a PC or laptop computer?

JH: Votograph is not available on tablets at the moment- only “phones”, or phone-sized devices for now. But it is available on both iOS and Android platforms.

RS: Can you describe how the idea for Votograph originated?

JH: The initial game concept came from DevMode’s owner, John Bailey. He proposed the idea and DevMode began working on the project in our spare time between client work. The project served as a means to learn more about project architecture and to refine our skills.

RS: Do the photographs submitted for a challenge need to be taken in the moment, or can they be old images already on a person’s phone?

JH: For the daily public challenges, you can submit either a photo you capture using the Votograph camera, or a photo from your library. That allows you to use your phone’s camera app if it helps you capture a better photo, or if you want to submit a picture you captured earlier. That also means images you found and downloaded from the internet are fair game. 

If you are creating your own challenge for a private group, you have the option of whether or not you would like to allow existing photos from someone’s library. Sometimes forcing “camera-only” works well for a challenge at an event, such as “Best Mullet At The State Fair”.

RS: What if two people submit the same image? Can we see the other images that have already been submitted to a particular challenge?

JH: That’s another option- by default, the public challenges are “blind” challenges, meaning you cannot see or vote on other submissions until after you have submitted. When you create a private challenge, you have the option of toggling “Allow Vote Before Submission”, which would allow anyone to see and vote on submissions at any time. 

If you choose not to submit a photo, you can still see and vote on the submissions once the challenge enters the “Vote” stage after submissions have closed. Challenges can be set to a duration of 1, 4, 8, or 24 hours. The “Vote” stage would be the final 15, 30 or 60 minutes depending on the length of the challenge. 

So, on a “blind” challenge, it is possible that people could submit the same image or same idea without knowing it. At the end of the challenge, if there is a tie between submissions with the most votes, the win is awarded to the photo that was submitted first. 

RS: If a player has already voted for an image, can they change their vote if a new submission arrives that they like better?

JH: Yes, players can change their vote as many times as they would like until the challenge has ended.

RS: When did DevMode release Votograph?

JH: January 11th, 2018.

RS: How is DevMode feeling about the response thus far?

JH: Interest has been light so far- but we haven’t really had time to put forth much of a marketing effort quite yet. Hopefully we can reach out a bit more and start gaining some more traction. 

RS: I see Votograph as appealing to people who want to take the “perfect” beautiful picture, as well as to those who like the more intellectual aspect of interpreting the challenges in quirky or obscure ways. Have you seen any patterns that reveal one or the other methods have met with greater success in challenges played thus far?

TA: Good question! So far I actually see that as one of the drawbacks of the app: I think users might be discouraged from submitting if they feel like they don’t have a “perfect” photo. We have a series of achievements which attempt to add some positive feedback on multiple levels, so users can feel like they’re accomplishing something without necessarily winning a challenge. But I fear that it isn’t enough to coax some of our more cautious users into increased participation. We still have some work to do in that area.

As for the quirky/obscure angle, I did manage to win a recent challenge with a crude line drawing. So it can be done!

JH: Tough to say- So far there have been a variety of winning strategies. And that has been part of the fun. Sometimes the best-looking photo wins, sometimes the tastiest-looking item in a photo wins, sometimes the obviously-quirky photo wins. It might be too early yet to say which strategy sees greater success. I think the given challenge phrase matters a lot- the quality of the phrase is pretty clear based on how many submissions come in for it. The less interesting phrases certainly do not get as many submissions.

This is probably a good spot to point out users can submit phrase suggestions for public groups- Here’s how:

From the main screen, tap the yellow “+” button in the top right corner. Then, select a Public group from the list. You will then see a text input where you can submit your phrase suggestion. We’ll review it and if it looks good it will get added to the master list.

RS: Can a user submit more than one image to a challenge? If the game were happening instantaneously, like an in-person card game, that question wouldn’t probably come up, but when the challenge lasts 24 hours, there can be tempting opportunities of better shots that arise before time runs out. 

JH: No- once the submission is in, that’s it! One photo submission per user, per challenge. 

RS: So make it a good one! Fair enough. I suppose this would be a fine time to ask how people can get the App and what it will cost. Where can photo-gamers find Votograph for downloading to their camera phones?

JH: It is a free download at both the Apple Store and Google Play Store: https://votographapp.com

We’d love to hear feedback- feel free to send your thoughts to feedback@votographapp.com.

Thanks for the support & good luck to all players! 

RS: Thank you for bringing new fun to our camera-phones and taking the time to describe Votograph to the Relative Something followers. I think I have an idea to submit for a challenge… Wonder what images would be submitted for “Relative Something?”

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Written by johnwhays

March 3, 2018 at 10:18 am