The Music of Our Lives (The Notes – Concluded)

The Music of Our Lives (The Notes – Concluded) 2048 1365 Jason Stadtlander


The following is Part 2 of “The Notes”

Michael spent hours playing hide and seek with Kasmira, which proved to be a challenge once he had finished looking for her and couldn’t find her. For she could not hear him shout “I give up! Where are you?”

Kasmira’s mother came in the second time he gave up looking for her. “I don’t know where she is, but she can’t hear me call for her.” The little boy told the woman.

Her mother smiled and stamped her feet slowly three times on the floor, so hard that glasses tumbled inside the china cabinet. A moment later, Kasmira came down the stairs, a broad smile on her face. Then her mother held out one arm as if to say “There she is!”

Michael smiled. “That’s how she knew right where I was! She could feel my feet moving closer or farther away!”

Kasmira’s mother laughed, “Pretty cool, huh?”

“Yeah. How come she can feel me, but I can’t feel her?”

“Well, two reasons. First, you probably could if you tried. Kasie has worked very hard to feel all the vibrations around her. When you are missing something, the body finds a way to compensate and enhance other senses. Second, she has learned to walk very quietly so that her vibrations don’t interfere with other vibrations.”

Michael nodded his head. “Huh.”

Within a few weeks, the two became good friends, spending time with each other any time they could. Kasmira was happy to have someone she could spend time with and Michael enjoyed learning sign language and getting to know her world. It was about this time that Kasie began speech lessons. She spent hours working with speech therapists and learning to make sounds with her vocal cords. Initially, her sounds did not sound like anything but noise to Michael. However, over time she learned to tighten her vocal cords and mimic the vibrations in her throat that she felt in other people’s throats. Michael helped Kasie by slowly, loudly saying words as she felt his neck, and then she would try to mimic his lips and his vibrations.

“Can’t she have her ears fixed?”  Michael asked her mother at one point.

“No, she was born with labyrinthine aplasia, a condition where she is missing her inner ear, the part that we hear sound with. Someday, perhaps they will find a way to help her hear. She does have the nerves there to hear, but she is lacking the inner ear to transmit the signals to that nerve.”

“Well, I think she’s the best friend I’ve ever had.” the boy stated.


It had been twenty-nine years since that day at Kasmira’s house when Michael had professed his friendship for the small girl that now lay here as a woman. And here he sat, staring at that same girl. Kasmira still had the long auburn hair clear down to her waist, though at the moment it was tied up in a bun. She was wearing a hospital gown and looked at her husband of ten years and their two children who were about the same age as she and Michael were when they met. Her best friend and fellow dancer, Carrie was also in the hospital room. Carrie looked Kasie in the eyes, “Everything will be fine. Don’t worry. They do these procedures all the time. And when you get out, you will finally be able to hear my voice.”

In her muddled, hollow-sounding voice, Kasie replied, “Thank you. I can’t wait to hear it.” she then looked at Michael. “I love you, sweetheart.” then to her children, “You are both my everything.” she smiled.

Both the children jumped up and gave her a hug, followed by Michael giving her a hug.

A nurse came in and spoke with the family and then wheeled Kasie’s bed out of the room toward the O.R..

Michael looked on as they wheeled her down the hall. He saw her hands come up above the bed and sign “I’ll be right back.”, an inside saying between them whenever they had to be away from each other. A tear rolled down his cheek and he hugged their children then slowly walked back to the waiting room with them.

Three hours later the doctor came into the waiting room, “Michael ?”

“Yes?” Michael got up as did the children and Carrie.

“I’m sorry, initially only the family is allowed in the recovery room, but you’ll be able to come shortly.” the doctor told Carrie. “Your wife is in recovery, I’m sure she’d enjoy seeing you when she wakes up. Follow me.”

As Kasie’s eyes opened slowly, she saw Michael and her daughter Elizabeth and her son Matt looking at her. She smiled and said “Hi.” in her muddled voice. She saw Michael’s lips say “Hello beautiful. How are the drugs?”

She laughed, “Very strong.”

The doctor walked over to them and look directly at Kasie so she could read his lips. “The surgery went very well. As I stated earlier, we’re going to wait until the incisions around the implant heal. We should be able to turn on the implants in about four weeks.”

“Thank you, doctor,” Kasie said.

The family spent another hour waiting for Kasie to come completely out of her stupor and then she was wheeled out to the car, still groggy. “Are mommy’s ears turned on?” Matt asked.

“No, not yet. Her implants need to heal first, then she will get to hear us.”

What felt like months, but in actuality was only three weeks, the whole family sat at the doctor’s office waiting for some news. The doctor finally walked back into the room. “Well Kasie, how would you like to hear today? The healing has gone very well and I think it’s safe to give it a try if you’re willing?”

Kasie eagerly nodded her head, nervous. The doctor showed her how to attach a long cable with a magnet on the end to the spot where her implant interfaced under the skin. Kasie felt a light tap as it magnetically attached. “Ok, let’s give this a try. I’m going to start very low and see if you can hear a beep.”

Kasie said nothing and just looked on anxiously as the doctor pressed a button on his keyboard. Kasie’s eyes grew wide as her brain processed something it had never experienced before. A low-tone beep. The doctor turned off the beep and pressed another button. He then looked at her children and Jack and nodded. Elizabeth said, “Mommy? Can you hear me?”

Kasie’s hand went to her mouth and she laughed and quickly the laugh became a cry. Tears rolled down her face. “Sweetie? You can hear us?” Michael asked, tears rolling down his own face. Kasie nodded hard and cried even more, then hugged him.

“Why is mommy crying?” Matt asked, “Does it hurt?”

“No sweetie, she’s just overwhelmed with happiness. She can finally hear us.”


The Notes

The Notes 1200 576 Jason Stadtlander

“Sit down over here” Michael’s mother instructed him as they walked along the balcony of Symphony Hall.

His grandmother had bought him and his parents tickets to the symphony in an effort to help him to become more ‘cultured’. He was wanting no part of it though. He could watch the symphony on YouTube if he really wanted to. What was the point of coming here? The lights dimmed a little and Michael sat up a bit looking toward the stage. There were still people gently talking all around the hall. Then a group of musicians came out carrying instruments and sat down. A few tuned their instruments and remained still. Finally, a man came out and stood on the platform in the spotlight and held up his hand high in the air, then looked at all of the musicians and waved his hand, and simultaneously, they began playing the Theme from Jurassic Park as John Williams directed them in tempo. It sent a chill up the boy’s spine. He was instantly mesmerized. Michael watched the musicians playing, each individual but all part of a greater voice.

That was when Michael saw it.

The boy watched from the balcony as the little girl in the summer dress slowly inched closer and eventually sat next to the large amplified speaker sitting next to the stage. She had long auburn hair and fair skin, both a stark contrast to the pale blue dress she was wearing. The girl had been sitting three seats over from him before the concert began and although the boy had noticed her, he did not speak to her. He had no idea when she had gone downstairs. Now she slowly reached out and touched the speaker, the sounds of the orchestra pouring out of it as John Williams’s right hand swiped from left to right in the air while his left changed pages on his music stand less than fifty feet from her. She closed her eyes and placed her head on the side of the black box and was clearly moved as was the boy sitting a hundred feet away above her. A kettle drum bellowed and she smiled, eyes still closed as the orchestra neared the crescendo of Star Wars. The girl, so small next to the massive speaker, the boy couldn’t believe that the sound wasn’t too much for her to handle. He noticed a few people looking at her and briefly wondered if she was doing something against the rules.

The little girl’s smile was illuminated as if lit up by heaven. She had an ethereal beauty about her and an innocent discovery that he wasn’t completely sure he understood. The girl looked back and up at the balcony, seeing the boy looking down at her and smiled warmly, then pointed at the black box she was leaning on. The boy smiled and shrugged his shoulders, not understanding what she was trying to convey. He stared at her, his blue eyes locked on her brown eyes and for a moment, the room was empty, save the boy, the girl, and the music. For a fraction of time, it made sense to him and the moment passed. Then the girl looked to the boy’s right and moved her hands in front of her face, making gestures at the woman nearby.

The woman looked over at the boy and smiled, causing the boy to have a puzzled reaction, feeling like he was missing something that had transpired between the two of them. The woman leaned across the aisle and whispered to the boy, “She wants to know if you feel the music.”

He looked confused, “Feel the music?”

“My daughter is deaf, she’s never heard music before. This is the first time she has ever experienced a concert and is listening to the orchestra by feeling the vibrations in the speaker down there.”

The boy smiled and looked down at the girl who was eagerly anticipating his response. He nodded and delighted, she went back and put her arms and head down on the box, feeling it vibrate as the next piece in the Star Wars ensemble played out.

Suddenly, the concert was no longer interesting to the boy for the girl was so much more fascinating. She felt the music and she talked with her hands, from across the room. He yearned to understand more.

During the intermission, the girl came back up to her mother gesturing excitedly. The boy stepped across the aisle to the woman. “Why does she move her hands like that?”

“It’s how she talks. It’s called sign language.” The woman made a sign with her hand off of her forehead in a motion, “This means ‘hello’.”

The boy looked at the girl and gestured ‘hello’. The girl signed some more gestures, to which the woman translated. “Her name is Kasmira. She wants to know where you’re from.”

“We live in Chestnut Hill.” he replied, to which her mother translated, speaking aloud as she signed, “He lives in Chestnut Hill, not far from where we live in Cambridge.”

She nodded, “What’s your name?” her mother asked.

“Michael,” he replied, looking over at his own parents who were watching patiently.

The girl’s mother signed out the letters of his name.

“She would like to know if you want to come over for a play date this weekend.”

Michael looked toward his parents and his mother nodded. “Sure, sounds good. Just let me know your address.” his mother said.

Over the next several days, Michael spent over an hour each day watching how to sign on YouTube, he was amazed that there was an entire language that existed where you never had to say a single word out loud.

Saturday finally came and Michael and his parents stood on Kasmira’s step. The door opened and the little girl stood on the step and smiled at Michael. He made the sign for “Hello, thank you for inviting me.” She smiled and said in sign language, “You’re welcome. Would you like to play hide and seek?”

Confused he looked up at her mother who was standing behind her, “She wants to play hide and seek.” He nodded and ran in after her.

~ Check next week for the conclusion ~


To be human is to be Damaged

To Be Human Is To be Damaged

To Be Human Is To be Damaged 5120 2880 Jason Stadtlander

When I write a story and create a protagonist, it’s easy to create a hero. Someone flawless that comes sweeping in to save the day with superpowers or a methodical detective that can solve any case. But, readers don’t fall in love with the flawless. We can’t relate to that. It wasn’t the fact that superman could fly across the world in a minute or pick up an entire building that made him alluring. It was his vulnerabilities. The fact that kryptonite could damage him or his heart could be broken by Louis Lane. There isn’t a superhero (or a super villain) out there who didn’t have a flaw.

We need those flaws. We have those flaws. Every single one of us. True, small children likely have fewer flaws, but it is part of human growth – part of growing up to accumulate these flaws. The older I get, the more I realize that we are all damaged, all of us. It is how we choose to embrace our damage, understand what is under our own skin and use it to better ourselves rather than allow it to rot us – that truly defines who we are and how we connect with others.

Those who claim they are not damaged have simply not come face to face with their own damage and have not come to understand what that damage is.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that the damage is necessarily something catastrophic. It could be something as small as a bullying incident early in your life that causes an unknown level of anxiety or a fall when you were a child that you forgot about that causes a fear of heights. Damage is damage. Coming to terms with our own damage (in public or in private) is extremely important, and it really is the only way to move forward in life. There are some people I know that wear their damage on their face but have never come to terms with it and may live their entire life without ever understanding it themselves. Yet, others I know finally came to terms with their damage when they were in their 80s and 90s. We all live life on our terms, and we all live through our damage on our own terms.

The most important element to gain from this is that our damage is key. It makes us interesting, unique, often relatable, and sometimes holds us back. When you walk down the street and look at that person in the crowd that seems so well put together and overconfident. Just know, it’s only a face they are wearing, and they may just be better at hiding their damage. Show a little love and help where you can.

Grief, Its Impact on Those Left Behind and The Moments That Count Most

Grief, Its Impact on Those Left Behind and The Moments That Count Most

Grief, Its Impact on Those Left Behind and The Moments That Count Most 1707 1280 Jason Stadtlander

Grief is defined as:

Deep and poignant distress caused by or as if by bereavement

(ref. Webster’s Dictionary)

What is grief really?

I lost my grandfather this March. He was a man that was my moor in the turbulent sea of life, and most importantly, my best friend.

Virgil McConnaugheyVirgil McConnaughey lived to be 92 years young and went on to have three children, ten grandchildren, and many great-grandchildren. He served in the Army in Tokyo and traveled the world with his wife Doris. He worked for Ford as a Tool and Die maker, retiring and having a chance to spend more time retired than he worked.

These are the facts of his life, but are we just merely the facts of what we accomplished in the end? No, I  don’t believe so. There is a depth to our existence that cannot be defined in words. If someone asked me who Virgil was, those facts listed above would not be the first thing that came to mind.

To me, Virgil was a friend. A man who was not afraid to tell me his true feelings and perspectives on things, even when he knew I might not have the same view. He owned his strengths and his flaws (good or bad). He was not afraid to take on challenges that were far beyond most people in his position or point in life. He had a way of looking at anything mechanical or electrical and could tell how it went together, even if he did not see it disassembled in the first place – this I get from him. He could visualize things in 3D and look around them without doing so. Virgil had a love of all things nature, birds, and dogs especially. He would sit in his solarium (a room enclosed by glass) for hours, photographing, studying, and detailing the life in his small window of the world. He had his prejudices, most likely because of his age, but I loved him regardless. He taught me that one of the wisest things you can say is “I don’t know.” and that truth is more important than acting like you know what you’re talking about.

Virgil loved with all his heart those that he felt would reciprocate it, but kept those who might hurt him at arm’s length. Family was his gold and his fortune. Even those in the family that did not maintain communication with, he still loved them, he just felt at a loss on how to reach them and confused about why they wouldn’t talk to him. He could be the warmest man you have ever met, and the coldest person if you crossed him. He loved new technology and enjoyed meeting new people and the small moments in life that make life worth living. He was rigid in most of his views and unwavering in his perspectives but still managed to be flexible when it came to learning or understanding the world around him. My guess is, that this rigidness is what drove him away from some people.

But, I have learned in my own life that not judging others and accepting people despite their flaws, allows you to truly get to know them better. It also allows you to accept the good things in people – and there are always good things in people.

The thing that I learned most from my grandfather was “the moment”. The present – right now, this very second. You can’t go back and replay it. You can change some things in life but once you’ve passed this moment, it remains in the past. My grandfather is gone, forever. However, the thousands of singular moments that time paused for us and I learned something, heard something, or simply gave him a hug… made it all easier for the “past” that it is.

Grief is more than just the words that define it. It is a hole in our souls. The emptiness of what is missing. For me, it is those “present” moments that are missing. I cannot pick up the phone and call him anymore. I cannot text him and tell him I love him. But it really is okay. It was his desire that I (and everyone) treasure those individual moments that he had with all of us. One day, we all will reach a point where we do not have any more moments left in our lives. Hopefully, between now and then – We can provide everyone we care about with those moments. Because “grief” is not nearly as intolerable as leaving behind a life that is not grieved.

The Bulgarian Martinitsa, Baba Marta and The Dawn of Spring

The Bulgarian Martinitsa, Baba Marta and The Dawn of Spring

The Bulgarian Martinitsa, Baba Marta and The Dawn of Spring 1200 675 Jason Stadtlander

Many cultures have Spring related traditions. Growing up I remember everyone saying that March could come in like a lion and go out like a lamb. I drew countless pictures of how March would behave each year. And of course, the “April showers bring May flowers.”  Spring in Thailand celebrates the Songkran Water Festival which involves going to a Buddist monastery, visiting elders, and throwing water. In India, they celebrate Holi where Hindus throw colored powder at one another for the many colors of Spring.

One of my recent favorites of Spring traditions is Baba Marta and the Martinitsa which comes out of Bulgaria. A Martenitsa is a small bracelet made of white and red yarn. They typically have little people made of yarn hanging from them or are adorned with beadwork. My wife (who is Bulgarian) describes her childhood where she used to get quite serious about making Martinitsi and I can completely see how it must be fun for children to make their own Martinitsa to hand out to family and loved ones.

Beginning on the first day of March, Martenitsi are given as gifts to loved ones, friends, and those you feel close to. The wearer wears one until they see a stork (although we don’t see them in the U.S., storks are very common in Europe), swallow, or a blossoming tree, and then they remove the Martenitsa.

The tradition is related to ancient pagan history in the Balkan Peninsula. According to Bulgarian folklore, Baba Marta (“Grandma March”) is a grumpy old lady who has rapid mood swings. The belief is that by wearing the red and white colors, people ask Baba Marta for mercy. They hope to make winter pass and bring spring. The coming of the stork, blossom on trees, or a swallow are the harbinger of spring and evidence that Baba Marta is in a good mood and about to retire for the season.

Wearing one or more Martinitsi is popular in Bulgarian tradition and upon removing their Martinitsa, some people tie them on the branch of a fruit tree – thus giving the tree health and luck that the wearer experienced.

Now, this is the tradition that was explained to me by my wife and several close Bulgarian friends. It should be noted that I have also found some (unverified) evidence that the Martinitsa may have roots with the Khazarian tribes attacking the Bulgarians in the 7th century B.C.. A story tells of Bayan who accept Khazarian leadership and stayed with his captive sister. Their other brothers sought out new land for the Bulgarians. There was an agreement that Asparuh (one of the brothers) to send a birth with a golden strand tied to its leg, which would be a signal to escape their captures and follow the brothers. One day the brother and sister saw the bird with the golden strand and escaped. The two reached the lands near the Danube river but had no idea which way to go. To send a sign, Bayan caught the bird and tied a white wool strand on its foot next to the golden one. While tying it, the Khazarian tribe reached them and attacked with arrows. Bayan left a red mark of blood on the white strand. After the Khazarian tribe was defeated, Asparug took the thread of white and red and tied it around the wrists of each of his people, and called it a Martinitsa.

There are similar traditions in North Macedonia (which has similar roots to Bulgaria), Greece, Moldova, Romania, and Albania.

So, this spring, pick up some red and white string and help your children make their own Martinitsa and keep Baba Marta at bay.

The Little Boy - Jason Stadtlander

The Little Boy

The Little Boy 600 400 Jason Stadtlander

A little boy sits on the plush carpet of the warm house, playing with his plastic dinosaurs, one T-Rex battles a brontosaur and of course, the T-Rex wins. A pterodactyl swoops in and attacks the T-Rex, dropping a rock on him from high above and saving the brontosaur. “Bam!” the little boy says excitedly, giggling with the innocent laughter that only a small child can elicit.

A young father sits in his recliner, reading the newspaper, glancing down at his small boy playing and he smiles, then goes back to the classified section to continue his job hunt, so that he can continue to give that little boy a warm home to play dinosaurs in.

Not many years later, that little boy tells the father how much he hates him for the rules that he locks him down with and in haste, leaves the warm home, breaking the heart of the man who looked down at the little boy on the carpet playing with his dinosaurs. The father can’t understand how the little boy went from the pure child on the carpet with the soft laughter to the teen whose anger has consumed him.

Some time passes and the boy has made a few more steps down the wrong road and is sitting on the curb outside of the apartment he was just evicted from with three boxes sitting next to him, his life possessions. He reaches into the box and pulls out a plastic pterodactyl and a T-Rex and he wishes secretly to himself that he could fly away on the plastic dinosaur. The boy thinks about how last night he came so close to taking his own life in his depressed fog. Somehow, something stayed his hand but only he knew how close he came. These thoughts flow through his mind as a car pulls up the curb. The passenger window rolls down and the father smiles from the driver’s seat and gets out. Picking up the boxes and placing them in the back of the car, the father scoops up his little boy and helps him into the passenger seat.

More years pass and the boy finds himself sitting beside the bed in the warm house he grew up in, holding his father’s hand. He tells his father that he is sorry for how he treated him years ago and how much he loves him. His father smiles and squeezes the boy’s hand telling him simply “I know you love me, I’ve always known, even when you didn’t know.” as the father takes his last breath.

In grief, the boy sits on a folding chair by the stone which bears his father’s name, and sets his plastic T-Rex and pterodactyl on the top of the stone, then puts his face in his own hands and cries silently. While sitting at the stone, he feels a hand touch him and turns around to see his small boy’s hand on his shoulder. The boy, now a father, smiles as a few tears stream down his face and he picks up the T-Rex and pterodactyl, handing them to the little boy who takes them with his own innocent smile.

In a warm house, the little boy sits on the carpet and plays with the pterodactyl and T-Rex as the man sits in a recliner reading the news and smiling down at the little boy on the carpet, playing dinosaurs.

Getting Inside The Mind of Spoofed and Scam Emails and Texts - What to Look For and What to Avoid

Getting Inside The Mind of Spoofed and Scam Emails and Texts – What to Look For and What to Avoid

Getting Inside The Mind of Spoofed and Scam Emails and Texts – What to Look For and What to Avoid 1141 730 Jason Stadtlander

Spoofed emails have been a problem for quite a while now, but recently there has been a surge of spoofed texts, fake phone calls, and spoofed emails. Today I’ll dive into this ever-increasing problem and what you can do to identify this blatant fakery.

First, let’s look at a couple of questions:

  • Why am I getting these to begin with?
    In a nutshell, the primary reason you get any spam (be it text, phone call, or email), all boils down to money. Generally, there is always something they are trying to gain from you and when it comes to all the ‘little people’ out there, it is usually either your money or your identity (which also equates to money).
    Typically, people that take the effort to send out spam are trying to get you to:

    1. Buy their product (masquerading as someone you trust)
    2. Give them your login details for an account
    3. Attempt to set up a trust relationship (get information from you by acting like someone you trust)
    4. Install a virus or ransomware on your computer
    5. Be scared and con you into giving them money
  • How do I get so many spam texts, phone calls, and emails? Why me?
    The answer is simpler than you know. At some point in the last 1-20 years, you have probably either subscribed for something, been part of a data breach or been the lucky recipient of a random information guess. In the dark web, nothing is more valuable than large lists of accurate contact information. There are massive lists containing millions of PII (Personally Identifiable Information) such as phone numbers, email addresses, usernames, passwords, and social security numbers (just to name a few).
    There is probably an extremely high chance that you are not directly being targeted. You are just a number and one of the millions of poor saps they are counting on to click that link or pick up that call.

How the data collection works and why it is important NOT to pick up that call or click that link

As stated above, there are massive databases (collections of data) out there that contain your information. Probably a lot more private information than you think. What can you do to get yourself out of those databases? In short, not much. However, if you continue to not click links, not answer fake calls and not respond to fake texts, then you won’t be considered a “valid” contact and might eventually drop off some of them.

The spammer gets these lists of contact information and puts it into a program on a computer or a series of computers they have set up as a network. These programs have templates for email, text, and even voice calls and they essentially war dial you, which means they transmit out the template to you or call you and wait. When you get a fake text or email and click the link, it sends a message back to the software and marks you as a “real” person. If it is a phone call you are getting and you pick it up and hear some generic record message, it detects that the line was picked up. You don’t have to say a word or press a button, all you have to do is pick up the phone. That then automatically marks you as a “real” phone number.

Now, it gets a little trickier with phone calls. When you validate that your number is real, not only does it know that someone will pick up on the other end because it knows that the number is real it also adds your number to a spoof list. Later, when it tries to call out, it can use your phone number as the outbound number in the hopes that someone you know might pick up the call. I know, scary, huh? The reason for this setup is that spammers know establishing trust is the most important thing. Showing as a phone number that someone might trust or showing as an email address that others might trust, enhances the potential for buying the product, downloading the virus, or replying to the contact.

How to recognize and how to avoid spoofed / spam communications

  • Question all links – especially if they are coming through text. Very few companies will send a link via text.  If you’re on a desktop and it is an email, float over the link. This will show where the link is really pointing. If it does not make sense or looks fake, it probably is.
  • Shortcodes and Phone numbers – Large companies do not use phone numbers, because they are too easy to spoof. If a marketing text comes through from AT&T or Amazon and it is coming from a phone number, it’s fake. Shortcodes are special numbers 5-6 digits long that identify with a registered company. Unfortunately, I have not been able to find a (valid) directory for shortcodes. But if I do find it, I’ll edit this article to include it.
  • Email addresses are frequently spoofed. If you float over the name of the sender (in most email programs or websites), it will display who the email is truly coming from. Sometimes they don’t even bother to masquerade and just count on your freaking out about the money due or the content of the email.

Some interesting examples of emails and texts are below. I’ve highlighted and explained the proof of each.

Things to remember:

  1. Take a breath and keep your cool
  2. Do not react – don’t click, don’t call, don’t reply.
  3. Contact someone you trust (yes, you can even contact me personally). Ask them to validate it and help you figure out if it is real.
  4. Make sure you have a solid Antivirus / Threat Protection software such as Sophos on your computer (yes, even if you have a Mac)


Write me a letter - the lost art of writing letters -

Write Me a Letter – The Lost Art of Writing a Letter

Write Me a Letter – The Lost Art of Writing a Letter 2000 1334 Jason Stadtlander

I recently wrote a friend of mine a letter. You know, the old-fashioned way, with a pen and paper?

It occurred to me on page two, about the time that my hand was killing me… that my penmanship was terrible. Well, no, that isn’t exactly what was going through my head. What hit me was how lost an art it truly has become, writing a letter by hand.

Words scrawled on a paper stating how much you miss someone. Receiving a letter that smells like perfume from the woman that wrote it. Newspaper letters cut out neatly to create a ransom note stating that.. wait, what? No, no, no – I’m talking about handwritten letters.

Aside from the casual birthday card, I cannot remember the last time that I got a handwritten letter. We have grown so accustomed to instant email, the instant text or phone calls, that a lot of us have lost touch with that ancient art of writing a letter to someone.

There is something tangible, something real – that comes from that handwritten letter. Holding that piece of paper and knowing that it came from someone else. The other person physically held that paper and took the time to scribble a message on it in their own hand-script. That hand-writing defines a unique person. The font that cannot be duplicated.

I can remember as a child, writing another child who lived in Scotland as a ‘pen pal’ through a program that our school offered. It was amazing, to know that this boy four thousand miles away had actually written on the paper that I held in my hand and had mailed that letter to me.

I raise a question to you; When was the last time you wrote a letter to someone? For that matter, when was the last time you received one?

So, I challenge you! Write me a letter. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or long (I mean, make it at least a paragraph… Hopefully, I’m worth that much effort). And I will write you back. I can’t promise you a long letter back or that my writing will be legible, but I promise I will put thought into it.

Jason Stadtlander
P.O. Box 434
Swampscott, MA 01907
United States of America

Let’s see how many of you are willing to stand up to the challenge!

Does God Exist? One Man’s Journey into his Existence

Does God Exist? One Man’s Journey into his Existence 1610 805 Jason Stadtlander

It’s going to sound like I’m getting religious here, but I’m not. What I am writing is not about religion at all, but it is about faith. And regardless of what belief you have, you have faith, even if it’s faith in nothing. So bear with me.

As I sit, staring out the windows at the clouds as they move across the sky, now working from home thanks to COVID-19. This day is unique, it is new, unblemished and a chance for a million possibilities,  The same as the day before and the day before that and the day before that.

These same thoughts have gone through my head for the last year, two years, five years, ten years, even twenty years. What is my purpose? What is the point of this daily routine and this repetitive day? Perhaps these are questions that will always haunt me.

I have a purpose. I am a colleague, a father, a son, a friend, and a husband. But that does not define me, each are merely hats that I wear at one time or another. The core of what I am, my heart – and I don’t mean the organ that pumps in my chest, I mean that which is deep in my brain – that which gives me sentience and brings my soul to fruition, that is what I am. That inner part of me is my constant struggle, my constant companion, and my constant enemy.

It is that which drives me to seek an understanding of God and what part He plays in my life if any part at all.

I know, some of you are saying to yourself, “There is no God. It’s ridiculous to think that some higher being created everything and that we just evolved to what we are.”

Believe me, no one knows better than I do, how you feel. I refused to believe that there could be some omnipotent creature sitting upon some throne, cloud, whatever, staring down at us and seeing us as nothing more than a pet. I have always considered myself a man of science, requiring theory, proof, and evidence to show empirically that something is, or something is not.

But that all changed for me on a beautiful Saturday on Memorial Day weekend in 2005. Before that day, I was a man who did not truly believe in God. Who felt that true belief in God was nothing but a fictitious figment of the imagination of a people who have no faith in themselves, so they must create something that makes them whole and has a purpose. That fateful day I became a man who knew without a doubt that there was a God, a creator, and a higher consciousness that drives everything around us.

On that fateful day, a baby was born, a person that was half of me. I held that baby boy in my arms, stared down at him for minutes, hours, unable to take my eyes off of him.

And here it was, in my arms, eyes closed, sleeping soundly, breathing in and breathing out. A tiny heart beating deep inside. Another person has come into this world through my own DNA. That something so complex as an entire human being can come into existence from two cells dividing and multiplying and create bones, blood, organs, a brain. This was it, this was the empirical evidence that I had been looking for to prove to me that there was a God.

Yes, I know biology, I know chemistry, physics… But this transcended them all. I knew from that point forward that I could no longer ever look at either of my little boys and not know in the very core of what I am that there was a God.

Now, does that mean that I pulled the Bible out of the drawer next to me and slammed myself up on the forehead, and said “Praise the Lord, Jesus is risen!” Um, no. On the contrary, knowing that God exists is just a first step and a massive one at that, I might add.

In coming to this realization, I was however forced to ask myself one other question; If I was wrong about God and I now know that without a doubt there is God, what else could I be wrong about?

I started studying the Bible, the Torah, the Qur’an, everything – to try and grasp a better understanding of what everyone else around me has seemed to see that I could not. I would like to say that I did process it all and suddenly had the epiphany that everything now made sense… but that is not the case. It simply confused me more. It’s one thing to know what the bible and all religious texts say, it’s something altogether different to feel what they say.

So began my exploration of my own faith and my own internal struggle to understand things around me. Do I pray? Yes, but not all the time. Do I still believe in God? Absolutely. Do I believe that Jesus is our savior? That he died on that cross to save us from our sin? I’d be lying if I said yes I do believe all of that with all my heart. My faith is a journey.

But what really makes me different than I used to be, is that I can sincerely say that I’m not willing to rule it out. When it comes to Jesus, I don’t believe He is not. Did he exist, yes? I believe that fully. There is too much historical evidence. Do I believe he is the savior of mankind? The jury is still out (for me). Unfortunately, that evidentiary proof has been harder to come by than my belief in God. For me, it would require evidence other than that fabricated by man (i.e. books).

To me, God is not a man who sits high in the heavens and looks down upon us, and points us to go in one direction or another. I believe that to do that would negate the point of free will, and free will defines us. There is a logic to our world. The fact that you can take two atoms of hydrogen and a single atom of oxygen to create water, and the fact that it is the interaction of electrons that bind these elements together is science. But why do these electrons bond? Why do elements have electrons? What force created it to do so? Scientists will claim that it is just a case of electrons interacting with one another, but even that is faith. Faith that science is as it has been proven or faith that nature just works that way. One must have faith that things ‘just are’ that way. Can you really tell me that there is no intelligence at work in the creation of such things?

Even Einstein once said

“Every one who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe-a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble.”

The Bible doesn’t ever use the term ‘science’ because it did not exist at the time the bible was written, but Proverbs 25:2 states:

“It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out.”

What I do know, without a doubt is that there is a God. That the fog that rises from the fresh-cut grass is more than just a collection of molecules. That the trees and plants are more than just a collection of well-grouped cells, that music is more than just a repetitive pattern that is pleasing to the ear, and that real love cannot be defined by any words.

Until then, I will seek to understand. I will reach to be more and I will dig down deeper to understand my soul and my own existence. I do not know how deep human faith goes, what powers it or if there is ever a point that it is complete, but the comprehension of my existence and our existence is a journey. And I will do my best to continue to explore it with open eyes and an open heart.

My Ender 3 V2 And The Modifications I’ve Made

3D Printing with My Ender 3 v2 – 3D Printer and The Modifications I’ve Made

3D Printing with My Ender 3 v2 – 3D Printer and The Modifications I’ve Made 1024 1365 Jason Stadtlander

If there is one thing that became evident being stuck at home 24/7 during the pandemic, it was that I needed to find ways to keep my brain busy and keep life interesting. There are only so many TV shows one can watch and yes – I will admit I need to do more reading, but I also needed to do something with my hands. So, I began toying around with robotics, an interest I’ve had most of my life.

I pretty quickly discovered that the most effective way to build my robots would not be with carved wood and cardboard (though that could be interesting), but by using a 3D printer.

I spent weeks researching every aspect of 3D printing, trying to understand how they worked, what the different resolutions were, filament vs. resin, different plastic types. I almost bought a resin printer that seemed like a good fit, but it didn’t have a very large print area and I knew I wanted the ability to print larger prints. I also wanted something that was economical and wouldn’t cost me an arm and a leg but still could put out good quality prints.

I finally settled on purchasing the Ender 3 v2 by Creality. The v2 had the same great design as the original Ender 3, but it had the built-in newer Mean Well power supply (PSU) that a lot of the Ender 3  users were upgrading to. It also had a 32-bit board rather than the original 8-bit board. To top all of this, it has the capability for great resolution (~0.1 mm).
Side note, this is a fantastic video that shows how to set up the Ender 3 v2 from start to finish.

Now, the great thing about the Creality 3D printers is that they are open source which means you can buy or create a ton of addons for them. To clarify, this is not why I bought the Ender 3 v2, I honestly had no idea that you could add on to it so much when I bought it. However, I quickly found out that there were some things that were driving me crazy, such as my printouts not sticking to the bed or constantly having to level the bed. So, over the last few months, I have found that there were a lot of needed (and some not – so needed) upgrades that I have chosen to do to my Ender. (be sure to also check out the software changes I have made – at the bottom of the article)

Important Tips I Learned Quickly

  • Preheat the bed before bed leveling. Metal, glass, etc. – they all expand when heated. So the distance between your bed and your hotend are going to be slightly different when it’s hot vs. when it’s cool.
  • Level the bed by using a post-it note. Slip the post-it note between the hotend and the glass bed at each corner. Adjust the leveling knob so that there is just a little friction on the paper. Do this for all four corners at least twice. (yes, you can use the same post-it note the whole time 😉 )
  • A better spool roller is a must. Creality ships this tube (yes, it’s literally a tube) that the spool sits on. So as the filament is pulled off it, the spool does this herky-jerky movement which can cause stress on the filament feeder. I have details on how to deal with this further down the article.
  • Cleanliness is next to godliness. Keep that bed clean! My personal advise, wait for the glass to cool, then take it off and wash it at the sink with dishsoap and water, then dry it well. Never try and clean it hot, glass shatters under rapid expansion or contraction – even tempered glass like this.
  • Use Magigoo. You’ll see more on this below, but I’ve tried everything to get my printouts to stick well to the surface. Cleaning, painters tape, you name it. Magigoo is by far the miracle worker. It’s not cheap ($16 USD a bottle), but it lasts a LONG time and it’s worth it.

Some of the things that quickly irritated me:

  • Too Noisy – The printer sits in my office where I work every day. The original fans were ridiculously loud when you’re on a zoom call.
  • Constantly leveling the bed – This drove me crazy pretty quick. I realized that the prints were either not adhering or I was getting spaghetti’s (where the print slides out of place or the bed is too far away from the head and filament spews out with nothing to stick to).
  • Having to constantly keep an eye on the printer – At first, I took an old webcam that had an onboard interface I could connect to with a browser. Worked, but wasn’t really very effective in knowing what is going on with the printer.

Physical Modifications of My Ender 3 v2

So here are the modifications I made to my printer and hopefully (if you’re a 3D printer enthusiast or soon to be) these mods can help you!
NOTE: I am not responsible for any modifications you make to your printer and I highly recommend you do your research first and carefully make sure you are always insulating your wires and boards and that you solder your connections well. Improperly connecting electronics can result in a fire or damage to people or property. All of these modifications you make at your own risk.

  • New quieter fans – This made an enormous difference to the peace in my office. However, you can’t just buy new fans that fit into the existing print head because all the fans on the market that are that small are far too loud. I wanted to also make sure I wasn’t going to sacrifice airflow, quality, or worse, risk my printer overheating and causing a fire hazard. So I decided on the Noctua fans. They were highly recommended on multiple sites and there were some mods on Thingiverse that allowed for the upgraded fans (which basically involved me rebuilding the hot head cooling. It sounds laborious, but it really was not difficult.
    Here is what I used:

    • Print out the parts from Thingiverse for the PET Fang Cooler (for the record, I used standard PLA and not PET and have had no problems with the fang melting or anything).
    • 3 Noctua fans – (2 – 40X10mm and 1 – 40X20mm) The 10mm fans are used for the CPU mainboard and the print cooler. The 20mm fan is for the hotend.
    • Pack of 5 Buck Converters – These convert the voltage from the 24v of the power supply down to the 5 or 12 v needed. It’s very important to use good quality buck converters that you know can handle the amps (current). I used these because they were so small I didn’t have to add them inside the motherboard area, I could literally tie them in inside the flex tubing that goes to the fan.
  • PET Fang Cooling

    My modified print head

    BLTouch & New Springs – Two things tremendously helped with keeping my board level and not requiring me to constantly level it before each print. I still need to level it every few weeks (at least I do it, just to be safe), but I no longer have to with every single print. I added a BLTouch. This little device has a pin that automatically checks multiple points on the bed before it prints every time. It then automatically does the math of the z-index at each of those points, so that it creates a “virtually level” bed that it’s working on. By the way, this video by Dr. Vox was extremely helpful in installing the BLTouch.
    Here is what I used:

    • For the BLTouch:
      • Print out this bracket from Thingiverse – which goes with the above PET Fang Cooler.
      • Purchase a BLtouch – there are quite a few knockoffs, so use this one – the original. It comes with everything you need except the Fang bracket
    • Springs – now, part of the problem with constant leveling is that Creality uses a cheap spring on the beds. It doesn’t provide enough compression, so you need stronger springs to strengthen the holding position. (see this video).
  • OctoPrint – As nice as my webcam was, it didn’t actually let me monitor everything that was going on in my printer (temp, etc.). So I found this great little idea called Octoprint. You basically build out a small RaspberryPi computer that connects to your printer, monitors it, lets you see it, you can even stage print jobs. Here’s what I followed to build and install it all. One little downside is that you need your print job illuminated. See below and you’ll see the LED panel I used for that.
    Here is what I used:

    • For OctoPrint:
      • Print out this RaspberryPi case (it mounts to your printer)
      • Print out this boom and camera mount (also mounts to your printer)
      • Parts needed to purchase:
      • Setup OctoPrint
      • Print up LED Panel from Thingiverse
        NOTE: I already had some LED strip hanging around, but you can buy them pretty cheap here.
      • Now, if you’re like me – you don’t like a lot of extra power cords running around. So you can also build out a direct tie-in for power using this guide and this case on Thingiverse and this buck converter.
  • Print Spool with bearings – I wasn’t particularly happy with the simple “pipe” that Creality ships with their printer to hang a print spool on. It’s sort of jittery in the output on the filament and I felt it kept tensioning up the feeder too much. So I wanted something that would allow better flow. I printed this little guy out from Thingiverse and it made a world of difference.
    Here is what I used:

  • MagiGoo

    Magigoo – Magigoo was something that Dr. Vax mentioned in his video above. The stuff is AWESOME, especially with the Ender 3 v2 glass bed. A little forewarning, things can stick a little TOO well, so sometimes you need to just let your bed cool down a little first and then things pop off it. It washes off very easily and is safe for the bed. You can buy it here.

Once all this is done, I still have not yet gotten to the PSU (Powersupply) fan upgrade. This is a whole other ball of wax (or plastic). Because the PSU will not fit the fans I listed above and frankly, they don’t really move enough air anyway for PSU. So, to do this you’ll need to print out a new bezel and get a larger fan. I’m currently in the process of this and will post my outcome on this afterward.

Software Changes

How you set your settings can have a profound impact on the quality of your prints, I have found. Here are some changes I made to my Cura Utilimaker (the software Creality recommends using. It’s free.) Note that all of these you can “search” for in the Print Settings window.

  • Make sure the “Layer Height” is set to 0.18mm
  • Set the “Wall Thickness” for the Shell to 1.2mm
  • Set the “Wall Line Count” to 2
  • Set the “Infill Density” to 35%
  • Set the “Infill Layer Thickness” to 0.36mm -this should be double the layer height. It prints larger lines for the infill, but only prints infill every other line but retains high quality for the outer shell
  • If printing PLA, print it at 210°C and 60°C for the bed temp (this helps with layer adhesion) – The higher temp is on purpose, for the infill you are printing thicker lines and running at a higher speed, so you want the PLA to come out smoothly.
  • For prints that you aren’t overly concerned with aesthetics (such as mods to your printer) – Set the “Print Speed” to 110 mm/s
  • For prints that you want the best look possible – Set the “Print Speed” to 50-60mm/s (75mm/s is a nice middle ground)
  • Set the “Retraction Distance” in Travel to 5mm (this helps to prevent artifacts and webs from showing on the print jobs)
  • Set the “Z Hop When Retracted” in Travel to Checked (this helps to prevent artifacts and webs from showing on the print jobs)
  • Set “Combing Mode” to “All” – This keeps the nozzle only within printing areas when traveling, thus preventing (or reducing) the web threading that can occur between models.
  • IF you’re using supports (for overhead pieces) then use “Tree”, “Touching Buildplate”, Support pattern “Zig Zag”, and set the overhang to 53°


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