We were going to visit friends right after Christmas. We haven’t seen them in a while and we have really been looking forward to it. So were they. Except she’s sick. Pneumonia, some kind of resistant intestinal virus and now it has morphed into asthmatic bronchitis. She is clearly in no kind of shape to have guests. She’s in no kind of shape to be out of bed.
I was going to wish her a Merry Christmas, but it seemed inappropriate. She isn’t going to have a merry Christmas and as far as I can see, no kind of Christmas at all. She can barely breathe.
It’s been this kind of year. My husband’s cousin died. They weren’t close, but it’s another reminder that the family is getting smaller, a generation is passing away and we are that generation. Mortality is too close for comfort.
Nonetheless we are making an effort, however feeble, to get some kind of holiday spirit going here. We aren’t doing as well as we might, but hey, we are giving it the old college try or something along those lines.
Which is why I need to see “It’s a Wonderful Life.” I need to believe, if not in angels, that despite everything going wrong, it can somehow be set right in the end. That there can be happy endings, even when everything seems hopeless. Hope is the single component that can overcome everything else. If we lose hope, life loses its flavor. We lose our energy, we stop wanting to do things, we stop caring about each other and ourselves. So we need to hope, we need to care, we need to believe.
I have long recognized that the goals and plans we make are artificial, created by us to make us feel like we are accomplishing something. I don’t need the goals anymore, but I need to feel like I’m a participant in the world on some level. Yesterday, I hooked back up with SETI. Remember “Starman?” The representative from SETI who kind of saved Jeff Bridges so he could return to his home planet? The guy who prevented the government from stopping Jeff from meeting up with the mother ship?
Well, not only does SETI exist, but you … any and all of you … can participate in a variety of projects, including the original SETI (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) as well as a wide selection of other worthwhile projects. You don’t need to be a scientist. You just need to own a computer or two that you don’t use all the time. You hook up with SETI, fill out a bunch of moderately confusing forms, all of which boil down to letting them use your computer to process data when you aren’t using it. You can specify that they can pop in anytime you aren’t actively using it … or indicate that they can only use it during hours you specify. It is extremely cool, they send you newsletters, you get a special screen saver which tells you in which projects you are participating, and you get to feel … by doing absolutely nothing … that you are involved in a really big and ultimately enormously important set of projects.
To join, you’ll want to start with Seti@home. That’s where you sign up to let them use your unused computer time for processing:
- There is an initial download of about 10 MB.
- You’ll need about 20 MB of free disk space and 64 MB of RAM.
- with a typical computer (such as a 2 GHz Pentium 4), you’ll need to let SETI@home run for at least 2 hours per week (slower computers are fine but they’ll have to run proportionally more).
The rules for participating in SETI@home – read this first.
Download and install the BOINC software used by SETI@home.
Get help installing or running SETI@home.
Like SETI@home? Email your friends about it.
Compile SETI@home for other platforms or with processor-specific optimizations.
Check out add-on software developed by other participants.
See the latest versions of applications.
Learn how to change the appearance of SETI@home graphics.
But that’s not all, not by any means. There’s also the SETI Institute where all kinds of other stuff is going on in which you can participate. If you own a telescope. or are a scientist yourself, or just an interested amateur, this is the real deal.
Maybe it’s a small thing, but it something. And I’m glad to have the chance to be a part of a project that’s busy exploring this world and our universe. Sure, they’ll take donations if you have money available, but if you just have a computer and can donate your unused processing time, that’s fine too. No age limits, not much in the way of rules or regulations. Pretty cool, eh? And you can participate and never have to leave home.
Merry Christmas, happy “The World Did Not End Day,” and Joyous Solstice to you all.
- BOINC: compute for science (chimac.net)
- SETI: The Search Goes On (universetoday.com)
- Citizen science projects around the world (thehindu.com)
- That meteorite which blew-up over California last April is one of the rarest ever found (io9.com)