IN THE MORNING

Why do I get up in the morning? I don’t go to work, at least nothing for which I get paid. I rarely have an early appointment because I hate having to rush in the morning.

It’s the dogs.

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They need water. They need a biscuit. They need a pat on the head. They need a person to remind them what their jobs are … which in a nutshell is “being cute.”

Okay, there are a few other reasons. I want coffee. My back has fused during the night. If I don’t move soon, I’ll need the Jaws Of Life to extract me from bed.

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And then, there’s Serendipity. I want to see what’s going on, who’s on, who’s saying what about which thing. I spend too much time on the computer, but it’s my connection to a larger world. If it weren’t for the Internet, it would be like it was 100 years ago. I’d be a shut-in with virtually no contact outside these walls — a depressing thought.

bright kitchen morning

Finally, I get up because I like being alive and staying in bed represents surrender. To me. It may mean something different to you, but I think if I stop getting up, soon thereafter I’ll stop being alive.

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE FROM MEMORY LANE

Unwilling to even think about today’s daily prompt, I offer this instead. Just food for thought. Or paranoia.

After contemplating operating systems at length, I started rethinking the whole thing and I began to wonder if operating systems will be relevant a couple of years from now. Because everything is changing.

computer gargoyle

Change is hardly new to the world of computers and technology. Change is what drives the industry. Change is how come you need to buy new software, new hardware, new operating systems. Change can make things work better, but it’s not unusual to discover that your “upgrade” is a downgrade because what used to work no longer does. You pays your money, you takes your chances.

I grew to adulthood in a pre-computer society. I started working before cable TV, when encyclopedias were huge heavy sets of books and a computer was gigantic and needed a whole building for itself. It ran on punch cards and used weird languages like COBOL and FORTRAN. Even decades later, personal computers were just one step removed from a doorstop, floppy disks were 5-1/2 inches across and really flopped.

Those early machines (personal units, not mainframes) — I hesitate to call them computers — didn’t do much. They didn’t have hard drives. There was no software and no user-friendly interface. I don’t think the concept existed. No WYSIWYG. What you saw was a black screen with lurid green letters that made you feel like you were going blind after an hour or two.

Then … everything changed.

First there was Apple and then Windows. Windows didn’t work very well at first, but soon enough, it got better. And then better again.

There were different players and more operating systems in the beginning. Wang and DEC plus a crazy quilt of dedicated word processors and computers made by Commodore, Atari and many others. For a while, I had an Amstrad, a European machine that was almost a computer, kind an intelligent typewriter with a screen that spit out paper.

This was the Amstrad!

Then, everything changed again. Computers started to really do stuff. It was magic!

I worked on this machine in Israel using the first word processing tool, WordStar.

For a while, it seemed like everything changed every day. One day, there was a thing called the Internet. I had to buy and install Netscape to access it. Once connected, there wasn’t much going on, but it was cool to just roam around and see what there was do see.

You could send electronic mail — email — if you had a friends with computers. You sent them messages over old copper telephone wires and everything happened in slow motion.

My first personal computer.

To get on the Internet , you turned on the computer and the modem. Went to the kitchen. Prepared dinner. Cooked dinner. Served dinner. Ate dinner. Cleaned up. By the time you got back, you might have managed to connect. Or not.

My first PC. I think everyone had one of these at some point!

Then suddenly AOL popped up and I got a really fast modem, a whopping 2400 BPS! Imagine that. I worked in California from my home office in Boston. Cool! Telecommuting was the cat’s pajamas.

By the time my granddaughter was born in 1996, everybody had a computer or two. In her world, computers have always been fast, the Internet has always been the world’s shopping mall.

My old 486 ran for 10 years. It wasn’t fast, but it sure was durable.

At age three, she could run basic applications. It’s like electricity to us: something you use that’s always there, always was. I’m sure she can’t imagine a world without it. It’s hard for me to remember so far back.

Memories of days of yore … but not halcyon I fear,

For a brief interval, the rate of change slowed. We drew a collective breath and didn’t have to buy new computers for a couple of years. High speed connections arrived, though most home users didn’t have it right away. Everything kept getting faster and soon, with cable modems, no one could even remember what it was like to try to get onto the Internet using an old telephone line.

Commodore 64 – the most popular computer ever produced.  More than 30 million of them sold.  I had one of these, too.

Every time you looked around, there was a  new generation of processors, bigger and faster hard drives, amazing super high-definition monitors and speaker systems to knock your socks off.

The Internet became a world-sized shopping mall and overnight, catalog shopping became website cruising. The Internet was a world unto itself; I played bridge in real-time with a partner who lived on an island off the Pacific coast.

We have computers all over the house and what isn’t a computer is run by a computer or contains a mini computer … microwave ovens, smartphones, digital cameras, and GPS units. I have three computers — desktop, laptop, and Kindle. Garry has the same arrangement . There’s an extra Kindle or two lying around, too.

Six computers and only 2 people. All it takes is a brief interruption of connectivity to leave us wandering like wraiths, without form or function.

Now, it’s about “the cloud.” Same old Internet, but “cloud” is the “new” word for stuff stored on external servers. We’re going back to where we began, to using stripped down computers with no hard drives. Instead, everything is stored on someone else’s computer — out there. In the “cloud.” Our data might be anywhere. We have no way of knowing where it lives.

Am I the only one who finds this unnerving?

I can see advantages. When you eliminate memory sucking operating systems and cumbersome installed applications, your computer will run faster. Start-up is instant. You don’t have to maintain and upgrade expensive applications and volumes of data. You don’t need ever bigger hard drives, more memory, and video RAM. You wind up with faster computers that are less expensive and easier to maintain. It’s a win-win, right?

Or is it?

How much do you trust your Internet service provider?

If your cable company has a bad day or the servers on which you store your critical data go down — even for a short while — you have nothing. As long as everything works like it’s supposed to, it’s hunky dory, but Murphy hasn’t left the building yet.

Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong, and will do so at the worst possible time.

Maybe it’s my age showing, but I would prefer to have data on hard drives that I control. That I own.

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The idea of entrusting everything —  from my photographs to the manuscript of my book — to an unknown server somewhere in the world scares me. What if the building in which the server storing my stuff burns down? Gets hit by a terrorist attack? Taken down by hackers? You have no way of knowing what country your data is in, how stable its government is, or how good an infrastructure it maintains. You financial data could be in Pakistan, Indonesia, or Kuala Lampur. Or next door.

Is there a compromise possible? Because when I think about entrusting everything to a cloud, I begin to twitch.

How many times have you been unable to access a web page because servers are out? What if you need a critical piece of data from a server while its offline?

My bank was hacked. BOA had to send me a new bank card. Lands End and Adobe were hacked too. I had to redo my accounts because they’d been compromised. Lots of other places too over the years, places that were “unhackable.” I know I’m not unhackable. I just figure I’m lucky and don’t have anything worth stealing.

If your ISP is down, you’re out of business. If you think your cable company has you by the throat now, how much worse will it be if everything you need to run your life and business is dependent on their services?

Those of you who are old enough to remember the great Northeast power blackout in the mid 1960s know what I mean when I say overloaded systems go down like dominoes. I’m all in favor working with my fellow human beings throughout the world, but at a certain point, when does inter-dependency make us too vulnerable?

If you put too many eggs in the basket and the basket falls — and it will — eggs break. In which case you don’t have an omelet, just a mess of busted eggs.

TOTALLY RANDOM

Great Thoughts and Random Musings

Despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, there are still plenty of politicians who deny climate change.  Do you wonder what interests they are protecting?

Let’s have a show of hands of all people who think the government is actually working for them.  That looks like two per cent to me.  I get the one per cent, but what about you others?

So the British CEO of Dunkin Donuts thinks that a 15 dollar per hour minimum wage phased in over three years would be “absolutely outrageous.”  His total compensation last year was 10.2 million (alternet.org), which is about 4900 dollars per hour if he works 40 hours per week and 52 weeks per year.

Have you noticed the increased number of people who seem to want to protect the top one per cent while keeping poor people poor?  Surprisingly, many are not in the top one percent themselves.

How about a 24 hour moratorium on Facebook memes?  Maybe Twitter too.

Since the Chicago Cubs are actually over .500 at this point in the season, Cubs fans think the team will make the play-offs.  Of course, if they were under .500 many would think that too. If the season ends tomorrow, they are in, barely.

So people caught running red lights are against red light cameras and believe the city is just trying to raise revenue.  Mmmmm?

Name dropping time.  Since writing an article about musician Tom Law, I have had a few conversations with Tom and we have given new meaning to the idea of “totally random.”  I thought we would be talking about music and music videos, but not so much!  It’s all good.

Name dropping two. I went to hear author David Farrell read from his recently published book, If Only Again.  It is always interesting to hear the author read his own words.

David Ferrell reading the opening of If Only Again.

David Ferrell reading the opening of If Only Again.

Of course it is OK to be outraged about the killing of a lion, especially if it was lured out of a protected area, but where is the equal outrage for those who die needlessly each day from disease, hunger and war?

The truth may not set you free, but lies will certainly enslave you.  Feel free to quote me on that.

How about if you have to quote me one line of Leviticus which may or may not be translated correctly, I get to quote you ten that you are probably violating often?

If music soothes the savage beast, please explain Heavy Metal to me.

I did see an interesting internet quote among the piles of crap, it said, “If you don’t take care of your body, where else are you going to live?”

Snopes, Snopes, Snopes!

Despite the obvious truth that a virus does not ask your sexual orientation before infecting you, why do people continue to think of HIV as a gay disease?  Most people in the world who have it are not gay.

“HIV is the world’s leading infectious killer.” (aids.gov)

I have lost count of how many Republicans are running for President.

“A new NASA study confirms fire seasons across one-quarter of the planet’s vegetated surface are growing longer.” – Tom Skilling, meteorologist

Lollapalooza is the best music festival of the year.

Somehow I have gotten on to the email list of two ultra right-wing groups whose names I will not repeat.  I wonder if it bothers them one bit that their conspiracy theories and “News reports” are most certainly lies or extreme exaggerations.

If you read last Sunday’s short story (Did You See the Picture?), then this coming Sunday’s will be the same, but from a different point of view.

MY VERY BEST ADVICE

The other day, I had one of the increasingly rare moments alone with my granddaughter. She has been going through a prolonged siege of the teenage girl crazies, a ghastly combination of hormones, young men, job hunting, and high drama.

Clearly, she was in need of my best advice.

“If you are going to be crazy, be crazy,” I said. “I was a basket case at your age. It’s a girl thing. But trust me. You really can trust me on this. Everything gets better. Not very long from now, you’ll look back on this time and wonder why you were so upset.”

Then I gave her that best advice: “Be crazy. Just don’t publish it online. Your great-grandchildren will be finding your Facebook posts and laughing their asses off. Worse, your future employers will be finding them too, not to mention your potential life-partners, business associates, friends and co-workers. College professors. Have fun. Be wild and crazy, but don’t publish it.”

Life can be a bowl of cherries ... if you are discreet!

Life can be a bowl of cherries … if you are discreet!

Nothing vanishes once it’s “out there” in cyberspace. Everything is going to show up on someone’s Google search. I can find posts I wrote — supposedly private — from more than twenty years ago.

If you post it on any form of social media? It’s a land mine on which you will eventually step. Anything you do is just a rumor — if it remains unpublished. You retain plausible deniability. Hang onto that.

A CEREMONY OF TEA

For Rashmi Kashyap of Soul n’ Spirit, this post is for you.


I don’t remember exactly when, but a while ago … a month? two? It’s hard to keep track of time. I mentioned in a post how difficult it is to get good tea in the U.S. It isn’t impossible, of course. If you have sufficient resources, you can get anything.

Ordinary folk are limited to local shops and the ubiquitous Internet. The problem is not that tea (in general) is not available. It is quality tea, fresh tea, which is nearly unobtainable. By the time we get it, it’s old. Tired. Teabag tea is not tea. I’m not sure what it is.

tea pot, tea canister, tea

I’m sure there are sources for better tea, especially in cities which are home to large Asian communities. But not here. In this part of New England, items people can find routinely in shops elsewhere, are unavailable.

We won’t starve. Beef, chicken, some fish. If you want something more exotic (by local standards, anything other than brown gravy, white bread, and hamburgers is exotic), for example items you need to create Asian cuisine, are not for sale. For years, I couldn’t even find matzoh meal, which I never considered remotely exotic. Perhaps I am exotic.

We live in the country. Rural. On the plus side, we are blessed — in season — with fresh produce from local farms. Milk comes from cows who graze in green pastures and sleep contentedly in the shade on warm summer days. Eggs are laid by chickens who wander about, pecking and clucking. They don’t know how lucky they are.

glass teapot

We’ve got horses, goats, and the occasional llama … but fresh tea? Rice other than Carolina long grain? Spices? Fresh curry powder? Light or medium soy sauce?

It’s no wonder Americans are not tea drinkers considering the tasteless dust which passes for tea. I’m pretty sure our local Chinese restaurants makes its tea made from teabags in the kitchen. The only good tea I’ve had in years is the green tea at our Japanese restaurant.

tea in teapot

The miracles wrought by the Internet are not limited to exchanging email and reading each others’ blogs. Rashmi Kashyap of Soul n’ Spirit heard the yearning in my post. Last week, a package arrived from far away India.

Wrapped carefully in fabric, packed for its long journey around the world. Tea. Fresh, beautiful tea. Not the dry, old stuff you get here or even online, but tea so young it can remember growing in the earth.

teapot and canister

I have a big earthenware teapot and made a pot that same night. It was amazing. Garry admitted he had never tasted tea like that. It was a different experience.

I needed a smaller, brewing teapot suitable for a couple. I have owned several over the years, but since coming back from Israel, it has seemed pointless. Now, though, I have a reason.

brewed tea in glass teapot

Amazon to the rescue. One glass, brewing teapot, perfect for two people. A small canister to store the tea, seal out light and seal in freshness. A tea measuring spoon because (blush) I don’t remember how to measure tea anymore. After 33 years in the U.S., I can’t think metric.  I thought I couldn’t forget. I was wrong.

It took a couple of days to get my teapot and other things. Finally, I could properly serve tea.

It is a soul-enriching experience. Tea in the evening. A couple of crispy things on the side. Garry drank three cups (they are little cups, tea cups) as did I.

I thank my friend on the other side of the word with each sip. I cannot begin to express my gratitude. Maybe this post will help.

NET NEUTRALITY BECOMES THE LAW OF THE LAND| ZDNET

Kindle and iPad

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted today to accept FCC chairman Tom Wheeler’s proposal that the Commission “use its Title II authority to implement and enforce open Internet protections.” Or, to put it in plain English, your ISP must provide equal broadband access to you or any site — Amazon, Netflix, etc. — without slowing down or speeding up sites for additional fees.

As expected, the vote to treat ISPs as common carriers passed by a party line vote of three Democrats over the two Republicans. Under this regulation, broadband Internet services will be governed by Title II of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended by the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Mobile broadband vendors, such as 4G providers AT&T, Sprint and Verizon Wireless will also be regulated as common carriers based on Title III of the Communications Act. It should also be noted that since Wheeler made his proposal, the FCC has redefined broadband as delivering at least 25-Megabits per second (Mbps).

The Republicans claimed that the FCC was over-reaching its authority by putting in a secret Obama plan for net neutrality. Wheeler dismissed this as nonsense in his final speech. He summed up, “This is the FCC using all the tools in our toolbox to protect innovators and consumers; to ban paid prioritization, the so-called fast lane. [This] will not divide the Internet into haves and have-nots.”

Source: www.zdnet.com

This is something which affects all of us. It appears we finally have a victory. Let’s hope this is the last we hear of it!

See on Scoop.itIn and About the News

TMI

Overload Alert – “Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense.” — Gertrude Stein


There is a lot of noise out there in the world. Television, radio, social media, newspapers.

Thing is, you don’t have to pay it any mind. I don’t. Much — most — of what passes for “information” barely fits the criteria for gossip, much less news. It’s ranting. Bullshit.

Facebook especially is full of unfounded opinions, innuendos, stuff that has been passed around so much everyone assumes it must be true, but hardly anyone bothers to check if it is fact or nonsense.

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When I’ve taken the time to track down these Internet “stories,” I’ve found them to be without basis in fact. If there are facts in the mix, they are out of context and liberally mixed with someone’s opinion. The most lethal kind of misinformation is a mix of fact and fiction which sounds authoritative, but is all smoke and mirrors.

I don’t watch the news. Really, I don’t. Unless there’s something specific going on that I need to know about. It has to be important: a hurricane coming our way, a natural disaster, a major political or international event, a war. I don’t need to know about the “crime du jour” or the latest celebrity scandal. I read book reviews. Movie reviews. When there’s a big election, I like to know the positions of the candidates. We watch at least one presidential debate every four years. And we vote.

Otherwise, if someone wants to tell me what’s going on in their life or wants to know about mine? They can call me, email me. Read my blog.

I am retired. Truly retired. I don’t want to know about, worry about, deal with all the crap in the world. If I don’t turn on the TV or follow it in social media, I don’t need to know. The crisis can proceed without me.

Life is far more relaxing without the constant hysteria of media.

Try it. It’s amazing how peaceful life can be if you don’t pay attention to the nonsense spouted and touted on the airwaves and Internet.