Mosquitos & Eucalyptus

When I was a child, everyone around me would be slapping at mosquitos and black flies, but the bugs would never land on me.

The  Sauna Project
Photo of a pristine looking sauna stove by danbruell from his The Sauna Project on Flickr. Using here thanks to his Creative Commons ShareAlike licensing.

I’ve never known why, and these days I’m just as much a host to an opportunistic mosquito as anyone.

Today, my wife connected the dots.

It was the eucalpytus.

I grew up in a particular Finnish-American subculture in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and it seems like most of us had a sauna in our houses. Or outside, say behind the garage.

And I was a severe asthmatic, on a first-name basis with the staff at the local ER. My parents seemed to try just about anything to treat the disease.

One such treatment was to add a few drops of eucalyptus oil to the water bucket in the sauna. You know, the one you dip into with a cup to throw water on the hot rocks so that water turns to steam (if memory serves, we called it a word that sounds like LOO-loo-ah; I’ve never seen it spelled).

At that time I was in the sauna many times a week as treatment.

I must have been a eucalyptus-infused boy by that time.

And I hear that mosquitos don’t like eucalyptus.

So, there you go, if you hate mosquitos, you should test the hypothesis. Try out that sauna regimen and let me know if indeed it works.


How do you reason about your position on COVID-19?

Politics, executive orders, barbers, mask-shaming, freedoms, powers, and egos aside, experiences around the world have taught a few lessons on how to greatly reduce COVID-19 infections.

  1. Wear a mask when you are with people outside your household.
  2. Minimize time indoors with multiple people.
  3. Move activities outdoors when it makes sense.
  4. Wash your hands often.
  5. If you feel sick, stay home and even stay away from your own family members.

Now, slow down your emotional reactions to that list by asking yourself some questions—or even discussing these with your friends and family.

  1. How much do I actually care to reduce COVID-19 infections among my family, friends, and community? (Try answering on a 1–10 scale.)
  2. Do I practice some of those 5 countermeasures, but not all? Why not those ones?
  3. How bad do I think getting COVID-19 would be for me and those around me and how at risk for getting it are we really, now? Am I acting in line with that risk assessment?
  4. Do I believe I’ve had COVID already and can’t get it now? Do I believe I don’t have it and thereby can’t transmit it? Is this belief based on knowledge or opinion?
  5. What motivates me the most: fear of sickness/death of myself or those I love, love/care for others, desire for normal life, respect for those in power, defense of personal freedom, or righteous indignation?
  6. Am I upset by how others are acting and talking about this? Are other people’s conduct within my zone of control or influence? How much should things outside that zone get me riled up? 
  7. If I want to get others to change, what is the most effective tactic: arguing, shaming, silent treatment, avoiding them, setting an example, sharing information, showing care, persuading, etc.?

My hope is that we examine our positions and build an integrity for them that unifies our reasoning and our emotions, and even discuss this hard topic with those closest to us.

If we can’t have a serious talk with those we love, I’m not sure we’re really living our lives.

I was inspired to write this by the opening of today’s The Morning Briefing in The New York Times.


COVID-19, Personal Values, and Performance Continuums

Many people would sooner die than think—in fact, they do so.

Bertrand Russell

That quote has come grimly to mind these days. It is printed on the back of a book that I try to review annually: How to Think Straight by Anthony Flew.

So, let’s think about our behaviors and our values at this time.


While this COVID-19 disease spreads to every state in the nation, and those states all declare emergencies, and governors declare stay-home orders while citizens play along or object in word and deed, and governments and groups at all levels throw money and resources at historical proportions at this issue, I see three values in tension.

A. Life, specifically attempting to slow the spread of COVID-19, which poses a threat to life. As I write this on Easter Sunday, the USA has well over 20,000 deaths because of COVID-19, and we’re nowhere near the end.

B. Economic vitality, specifically the broad market impacts and the local impact to businesses who are now deemed not essential to health and life. I’ve heard from business leaders who say their businesses are dead, not just on pause. Unemployment figures are all at an all-time high.

C. Liberty/Personal freedoms, specifically in reaction to what may be an overreach of executive authority by our elected officials in shutting down so much of normal society and a person’s ability to make their own choices for where to go, when, and with whom. In Michigan, for instance, we’re not allowed to travel to summer cabins to quarantine.

I don’t want this to sound academic! It’s personal.

At Covenant Eyes (my employer), we just received word this weekend that a young man close to the company died in the hospital from COVID-19. His wife was allowed to be by his side, and he leaves her and their two children. This is heartbreaking, and there are many, many stories like that.

On a fiesty angle, my wife got into it with one of her sisters in the past few days over chat. Wow, they really know how to fire each other up! To grossly simplify their debate, one was strong on one of the three values (liberty) and the other strong on another (life). Somehow it turned into a zero-sum game, where one side had to win and the other had to lose. It’s probably their Scottish Highlander heritage. (I trust in their deep sisterly love to win out eventually.)

When we disagree, it’s easy to presume that our counterpart is totally opposite. If you’re for life over liberty then you are also a Communist, give up all personal freedom forever kind of person. If you’re for personal freedoms over life, then you must also lick the produce at stores to spread your germs.

Come on, now. Really?

Hot emotions destroy thoughtfulness and empathy.

COVID-19 Performance Continuums

To prevent there-can-be-only-one sword fights on the mean streets of Michigan, let me borrow a page on performance continuums from information architect Dan Klyn of The Understanding Group and suggest all three of these values are desirable, and what we should really seek is to understand how we all position ourselves on relevant continuums.

Here are two examples of performance continuums for this COVID-19 season. On the MORE LIFE and MORE LIBERTY continuum, would you place your behavior at a 2 in favor of Liberty over Life? That isn’t to say you don’t treasure Life, but Liberty is more precious to you.

Where would you really mark yourself on these continuums?
Are your behaviors in line with your personal values?

Don’t we all want a 5 on more life, more liberty, and robust economy?

Okay. But especially in this COVID season, you might have to lean in one direction at the expense of another, but you can get a sense of how far to lean. Do you really want to fully give up liberty over life?

So, if you could place a single X on these continuums to show where you stand on each, where would you put it? You are for life and liberty, but are you more for liberty when it means you’re willing to give up some life? Vice versa? Try to not mark at 0.

Then, wouldn’t it be interesting to see how your counterparts mark themselves on continuums like these? You might debate and get clear on what you actually mean when you say “liberty.”

Perhaps it’ll lighten things up and you can clarify that probably none of us are all in, totally giving up on any one of these values.

I wish you all life, liberty, economic vitality, and yes, the pursuit of happiness.

Update April 12, 2020 3:35 p.m.

Dan sent me a message with this helpful advice.

Our method typically precludes verbatim re-use of the “aims” that appear at either end of the continuums.  Not unlike the questions on a Myers-Briggs test, we might re-state one of the aims using different words, to be able to develop an even more nuanced sensibility around that aim.
So by way of example, I’d go like this:

More Life <—–//—–> More Liberty

Robust Economy Now <—–//—–> Sustainable Economy Future

Solid Constitutional Rights  <—–//—–> Flexible Humane Systems

Dan Klyn, via email April 12, 2020 2:27 p.m.

So, I changed the original “Life” and “Liberty” to the “More…” versions. I like how the word “more” diminishes the binary nature that seems to get people upset. However, because of the centrality of the Life/Private Health/Public Health topic we’re facing, I’ve chosen an admittedly meat-headed approach in just reusing More Life. For all of our benefit, I’ve cited his additional ideas for aims above. Essays should be written in response to those. Thanks Dan.


How to update Ford SYNC with a Mac

I have a 2013 Ford Fusion. I like the car, but SYNC, the media system (think phones, etc.), is really bad.

I thought updating the software would help. Here’s how that went.

Throughout this whole experience, I had to keep reminding myself of two facts to properly lower my expectations.

  1. Ford is a car company, not a software company.
  2. SYNC is powered by Microsoft.

That said…

First, you need to create an account at Ford’s website for car owners, and in the process you add a vehicle to your account by entering the VIN. I made mistakes a few times because it appeared the page was loaded and I would try to use it, but in reality there was an AJAX process that was about to add my details to the pages. The site felt sluggish, so I basically just had to force myself to wait for the website after every move. (My Internet connection clocks in at around 50 to 60 Mbps, so it isn’t that.)

Once I had the account set up and my car added, it seemed obvious that there was an update for SYNC. It took me a moment to actually find it.

The instructions that came up were for more recent versions of SYNC, so I had to skip to a second set of instructions for older vehicles. The instructions helped me see that I was about to run the gauntlet.

For users of macOS, there are two important problems to overcome.

  1. You need to find a USB thumb drive and use Disk Utility to erase it and format as FAT with a scheme of Master Boot Record. (That isn’t hard.)
  2. When you download the installation file, everything goes sideways. If you try to put the files on the USB drive, go to your car and start the installation, your car will tell you File Not Found. You need to fix the files before you try to install them.

Fixing the SYNC install files

When you download the files, they will probably appear in your Downloads directory. Instead of being a file you need to decompress/unzip like Ford’s instructions indicate, it’ll just be a file folder with a name like GG1T-14D544-AB.

When you open that directory, you’ll see a bunch of odd files that look something like this.

Files for the SYNC software update. This won't work.
This is the default SYNC update file list as it appears on my Mac. The backslash characters in the filenames are a good clue.

To fix them, you need to add a new directory called SyncMyRide. Then you need to remove the “SyncMyRide\” from all of the filenames, and then move those files into the SyncMyRide folder.

It’ll end up looking like this.

File list that actually works in upgrading SYNC on Ford.
Here’s what the files should look like in order to work.

Move the files over to the thumbdrive. Don’t drag the containing directory, the GG1T-14D544-AB folder, just the fixed contents of it.

Figuring this out caused me too many trips between my computer and my car. I hope it helps you.

Last note, I did finish the process by reporting back to Ford that I did update SYNC. They really stress that, and I encourage you to do it. It’s probably the easiest part of the whole process, and involves you bringing the USB drive back to your computer and uploading an XML file that your car put on the drive back up to Ford. (That XML file was in the SyncMyRide folder.)

Good luck.

P.S., after doing the update, SYNC is still really bad.


“Sportsmen’s Club” is okay

A side project of mine is to keep up, a website that provides a list and map of shooting ranges in each of the Unites States.

So I see all kinds of variations of names for shooting ranges, and this theme sticks out to me:

  • ABC Sportsmans Club
  • ABC Sportsman’s Club
  • ABC Sportsmans’ Club
  • ABC Sportsmens Club
  • ABC Sportsmen’s Club
  • ABC Sportsmens’ Club

Forgetting for the moment that women enjoy the outdoors, let me propose a best form of those variations.

Because a club of one sportsman isn’t much of a club, I propose it should always be plural: sportsmen.

Because the club is possessed by those sportsmen, it should be the possessive form: sportsmen’s.

So, in case anyone would like to fix the name of such a club, try something like ABC Sportsmen’s Club.

(If I am misunderstanding naming, please let me know.)


The lesser of two evils is still evil

This was the conclusion of my last post on this topic:

To cast a meaningful vote at this stage, it must be for one of the two main candidates, informed by discerning the principles by which each will govern. That’s the conclusion I’ve come to, as much as I dislike it.

Since then more information has surfaced that further outs the deep ethical and moral problems that both Clinton and Trump have, highlighting for me just how much this isn’t about a Democratic or Republican platform being represented in the White House.

Rather I’m more concerned about how the character of Clinton/Trump foreshadows how the candidate will carry out actions as chief executive and influence national policy. This follows my earlier rationale of “discerning the principles by which each will govern,” and what I’ve discerned is troubling.

I expect a higher standard for the office than either candidate will meet. In my opinion, neither should be established as President of the United States.

Now, as a matter of my own personal integrity, I have a dilemma. Election Day is just a couple weeks away, but I cannot in good conscience vote for either candidate.

Do I have no option for a meaningful vote?

As an aside, I’ve been an independent for my whole voting life, but have leaned more to the conservative side. As such, I’ve generally looked to the Republican Party for a presidential candidate. I have to say, both parties have failed us. The Democratic Party leadership clearly has shown itself to be profoundly corrupt (thank you Debbie Wasserman Schultz), and the Republican Party leadership has shown itself to be spineless, sacrificing its principles in the presence of a giant.

Real leaders possess character and make the hard decisions based on solid principles. Their moral codes reflect a deep care for the well-being of others, instead of a moral code that swirls around selfish ego, fear, greed, and attachment to their own agendas. Where, oh where, are those leaders?


On voting in the 2016 U.S. presidential election

My fellow Americans, we’ve found ourselves with the rotten choice of Hilary Clinton or Donald Trump for President.

Political parties aside, many of us don’t think that either Clinton or Trump would make a good president.

Yet these are our options. So, how should we vote?

Well, John Quincy Adams wrote, Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.

I love the idealism, Mr Adams, but practically speaking, voting is a zero-sum game, where for one candidate to win, the other candidates must lose.

A vote for a losing candidate may not itself be lost, but it ends up being worthless. The worth isn’t in the vote itself, but in the relative volume of each set of votes for each candidate.

Today, if I take advice from Adams and vote for principle, I cannot vote for either Clinton or Trump. Yet, I must vote, if I am to always vote for principle. And yet, if a vote for a losing candidate is worthless, is there really any other option than to cast a vote for one those two candidates, one of whom is bound to win? Where did that fabled principle go?

As I’ve reflected on our current situation with Clinton and Trump, it has finally struck home that the more important election is the primary, not the general election. Sure, more people vote in the general election, and it does on the surface seem to influence who will become president, but, given our two-party system, the primary is where we really get to make major selections in who will go forward. After that, so much of it becomes a matter of party politics, regardless of the actual candidates.

Americans, we must become more interested and rigorous in our primary elections, much more than we are in the general election! We need to establish the principles we want our elected officials to protect and promote, and hold our candidates to those principles, instead of getting wrapped up in the personalities of the candidates. Principles first, candidates second. This is an election, not a popularity contest.

I think we lost great options for presidential candidates in the primary season, and I have to ask myself if the best America had to offer for presidents really was represented by those in the running leading up to the primaries. I cannot believe that, I have more hope than that.

Americans, the best among us may be shaking our heads at the circus of politics: the backbiting, betrayals, mud-slinging, slander, grand-standing, name-calling, and cost of it all. Are our best getting into the ring? Obviously not, if you look at the leading candidates. This country must have better options than those two. We need leaders of true character to step into the ring, and we need to support them in their fight for the future of this nation.

We tend to pay attention to the last leg of the election race, but the real winnowing happens early on. There is a very early divergence, a convergence culminating in the primaries with fewer of us paying attention, and then we do it again with an extremely thinned out set of candidates for the general election. That’s a risky process, if you ask me.

I’d rather the Democratic and Republican primaries didn’t happen, honestly, so that we could keep our options open through the process, with more and more information for a broader set of candidates.

What we have isn’t the best system for an election, because we don’t get enough exposure early enough to the spread of candidates compared to the principles we care about, but it is what we have to work with.

The fact is, this is what we have to deal with. In the primary, we had a broad swath of candidates, grouped by party. We had more opportunity to vote for principle. But now we essentially have two candidates to choose from, regardless of how well either of them reflects a principle. That is our present option. We don’t have an infinite set of candidates, we have two candidates who have a chance.

Just two. This is the present outcome, the truth of our political system.

How well is our system working?

To cast a meaningful vote at this stage, it must be for one of the two main candidates, informed by discerning the principles by which each will govern. That’s the conclusion I’ve come to, as much as I dislike it.

Tell me, am I wrong?


Mind map of Shooting Sports

As a follow up to my post from earlier today, I’ve been trying to work through how to organize the various shooting sports.

If you want to help by modifying this mind map, let me know. I’m sure it isn’t quite right, and this effort could use your perspective.

Why do this? Because the whole field could benefit from some standardized language on our shooting sports. Maybe this will help get us there. (I know I could benefit from this on

Shooting Sports by Davin Granroth

Conventional Pistol renamed to Precision Pistol

A pistol target scoring a 99 out of 100.
Precision Pistol is colloquially referred to as “bullseye pistol” because, well, we shoot at a bullseye.

A couple of years ago the National Rifle Association officially renamed Conventional Pistol to Precision Pistol.

This competitive shooting sport has been known informally as bullseye pistol, and to my knowledge that hasn’t changed.

While I’m aware that some competitors are disgruntled by the name change, on the premise that all name changes are bad because they confuse the topic, I personally like the change.

Here’s why: the word “conventional” was too generic. Let’s try “conventional pistol” with some synonyms for “conventional.”

  • Normal Pistol
  • Standard Pistol
  • Regular Pistol
  • Ordinary Pistol
  • Usual Pistol
  • Traditional Pistol
  • Typical Pistol
  • Common Pistol
  • Orthodox Pistol
  • Established Pistol
  • Accepted Pistol
  • Mainstream Pistol
  • Prevailing Pistol
  • Prevalent Pistol
  • Accustomed Pistol
  • Customary Pistol

What does that sense of the word “conventional” give us? It says something about the sport being the most typical and probably with the most ordinary of guns.

And that is not the reality of the sport, at least not today.

Precision Pistol really does have a lot of competitors. I visited the National Pistol Championships at Camp Perry last year, and I’ll estimate that there were about 500 competitors in attendance. (Will anyone who has a more precise number please comment on that?) And for all those who made it to the nationals, there were far more competitors who didn’t attend. The sport of Precision Pistol is very much alive, although when I competed at the nationals in the 1990s, we had closer to 1,000 in attendance.

There are other competitive pistol sports that seem to be more active than Precision Pistol. Action Pistol, Police Pistol Combat, Practical, Defensive, and so on. These are the pistol sports with shooters firing at multiple targets, some that fall over, from different positions, often with the shooter moving through a course of fire. And the targets are much, much closer—but shooters compete for best time to complete a course of fire.

Let’s admit the truth: Precision Pistol looks slow and boring next to these fast-paced pistol competitions, so of course the various action pistol sports will do better at recruiting new shooters.

Also, with so many people picking up concealed pistol licenses these days, some of these programs, like IDPA, do a good job at training shooters in techniques they ought to have acquired if they are to actually carry their pistols.

And are these “ordinary” guns? Well, you can enter the sport with comparatively inexpensive guns, but when I look through the merchandise at a typical gun store, I see a lot of pistols with combat-style fixed iron sights. For bullseye pistol you’ll want adjustable iron sights or a red-dot scope. With targets placed at 50 yards, a good set of sights makes a big difference. So, your typical gun isn’t quite right for this sport.

All that said, I love Precision Pistol. It is my sport, it is extremely challenging, and I’ll bet some great action pistol shooters cross-train in bullseye to their great benefit.

But back to the words. The term Precision Pistol does a better job at contrasting the nature of the sport from NRA Action Pistol, and bullseye pistol is no longer the primary, or typical, pistol sport in town.

Good call, NRA.

Now, can you come up with a set of terms to describe all of the shooting sports around the world, instead of just referring to their organizing groups? For instance, would you consider Olympic-style pistol competitions, which look a whole lot like bullseye pistol, to also be Precision Pistol? I’d like a taxonomy please, but I don’t personally know enough about all these sports to propose one.



We shared a look just before we started skipping down the aisle after being married.
We shared a look just before we started skipping down the aisle after being married.

On New Year’s Eve 2014, I married Amy Grace McNeil, now Amy Granroth. The service was at the Davison Assembly of God church in Davison, Michigan, and we had great help from Amy’s family and friends. They prepared everything: the church decorations, the food, cake, corsages, flowers, music—everything.

It was great to have so much help, and we so much appreciated it.

It doesn’t seem like six months already! God has surely blessed us and continues to do so.