Sunday, November 06, 2005

McConvert

We dumped our Dell PC for a Power Mac Dual G5. There was a transition in our requirements for a computer. We bought our new computer not for what it came with...applications, memory, CPU cycles, or disk space. No. We bought our computer based on what it didn't come with...namely Windows...and the viruses, spyware, and spam that seem to come with Windows.

Our previous PCs only lasted a year before they were so screwed up with malicious software that they'd slow to a halt, refuse to shut down or start up promptly, and every google query would send you to some shopping page. We tried being careful not to click on dubious links. We spent hours downloading patches to various programs. We installed anti-virus software and downloaded all those updates. In the end, it seemed we were spending more time patching the OS than using the OS and the computer was still becoming unstable. The only alternative was to pay someone to clean it up completely or buy a new computer, and often buying a new computer was cheaper.

Maybe it's not Microsoft's problem that all the hackers of the world exploit their security loopholes..maybe that's the price of being the top operating system dog. But you don't need Windows to surf the Internet, to download iTunes, to chat on AIM, or to read email. Those are the primary uses of our home computer these days, and the Mac handles them with ease. And so far, we've had no crazy viruses or spyware problems.

Please, *please*, don't all of you go out and buy Macs...you'll just attract all the hackers to Apple's OS X and the only alternative left will be IBM System/390 mainframes running MVS.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Intersection

There was seven miles between the flashing light in her town and the next flashing light at US441. In between those seven miles of double solid yellow line were mostly cow pastures carved from thin pine woods. The land was low and when it rained, which was often in the summer, little chains of lakes would appear in the pastures and the cows would huddle on the high ground, a mere foot above the low ground. Periodically, lightning would strike a pine tree and catch a field on fire. The fire swept across the grass so quickly that the pine trees on the edges of the fields were only singed on their trunks below the first branches. The fire had a restoring effect on the fields, new shoots of green grass sprouting almost immediately, while the blackened pine trunks tended to stay black for a year or more. Without fire, the grass in the fields was clumpy and brown like an uneven crop of straw wigs.

Never on the many trips to ‘town’, as they called the bigger town 20 miles away, had Jo ever seen anyone tending these cows, or repairing a fence, or just walking around. There were no visible houses attached to the fields, not even a doublewide. The cows were abandoned to fend for themselves, the pastures more like cow prisons than pleasant places to eat grass. But the cows had no burn marks that she could detect. How did the pine trees and grass burn so completely, but the cows were unscathed? Jo pondered this deep mystery almost all the way to the intersection.

There were approximately seven hundred telephone poles between the flashing light in town and the flashing light at US441. Jo counted them down as they passed the unburnt cows, anticipating their arrival at the intersection. At pole 681 the car started slowing to a stop in front of the red flashing light. Jo looked through the front windshield at the cars that rushed by from the left and right. She was fascinated by the speed of the cars as they approached, never slowing at the light, zooming away, their engines changing pitch slightly as they moved past. If she tracked the cars just right by moving her head in sync with their approach, she could get a look at the passengers as they crossed under the flashing light. She could capture them as if in a photo, the persistance of her vision holding them dear for a few seconds.

Where, she wondered, are these people going? Obviously it wasn’t to her town. Maybe it was another town. Never, in all the times crossing the intersection had the car she rode in ever turned right or left—it was always straight across, and again on the way home.

Her snapshot captured a boy with sandy hair and red cheeks that looked like trouble. His mother, the driver, was haggard with a frizzy mop tied back from her face, the lines of her face drawn down in a look of tired gloom. Yes, that boy was a handful, Jo decided. His mother was taking him to his aunt’s house in Georgia. There was a military school near his aunt’s house, and he was to be enrolled. His mother had just found out she had the whooping cough, and needed to go to Arizona to get out from under the humidity. The little boy’s daddy had been a pilot in the war, a real spitfire he was, that’s where his son got his rebellion. But the father had been killed, not in the war, but in an accident in the cement yard where he worked. The cement loader had accidently shifted as the boy’s father was supervising, and he was buried under the cement. Unfortunately, it was quick-dry cement.

Jo smiled at this last part. She had read somewhere that the mafia put cement shoes on people they had it in-for then dumped them in the river. Jo was always pleased when she could connect real-world events to her intersection postcards.

Friday, October 21, 2005

pencil factories erased

Dixon-Ticonderoga, venerable maker of yellow #2 pencils, announced it is closing its plants in the US and Quebec. It’s hard to imagine a world without pencils. Where would all the pencil-necked geeks be without a pencil to put behind their ear? How would we pencil-whip all that paper work without pencils? What would we do when it was time to get serious, sharpen our pencils, put our heads together, and solve that big problem? Imagine never having the singular satisfaction of taking a dull, worn, non-writing pencil, sticking it into a high-powered electric pencil sharpener, and pulling out a brand-new, razor tipped, writing *weapon*. A sharp pencil is a versatile thing of beauty. You can flip it up and stick it in ceiling tiles, stab your friend in the front row in the back of the neck, or Christmas-tree fifty bubbles on a standardized test. The humanistic pencil never made a mark that couldn’t be erased. In the world of pencils, #1 is no good…#2 is the best!

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Thunderstorm

The quality of light outside his window momentarily diverted his attention. He looked up from the computer screen to take in the tree-filtered spray of golden shafts flitting across the clipped grass. It was windy today, the trees bending at unusual angles that reminded him of the deformed trees that grew near the beach, permanantly stretched backwards by the constancy of sea breezes. But these trees outside his window fought the wind, fought to stay in the vertical plane as the wind swept over them in the horizontal plane. Rays of light played on the battlefield, dodging and weaving between swirling leaves and branches. The green canopy attempted to tint the beams as they glanced through, but the light was too swift and artful in its reflection, passing through pure spun as if straight off a solar flare. Building beyond the roiling trees were gray and white clouds, billowing towers of dark power balanced by white formations of undaunted purity, and beyond that, fragments of impossibly saturated blue autumn sky. As the storm approached, the light grew dimmer and more yellow, casting a fuzzy blanket of daffodil over the scene as if gently warning, “Move along, things are going to get violent here in a few more minutes.” He felt a shiver work its way from the bottom of his spine to the top, anticipating the oncoming thunderstorm. He remembered having the same premonition as a kid when he smelled the rain coming through the musty porch screen. He knew, from behind the thick panel of sterile glass, that the air outside was cool and damp but filling with electric charge that would build steadily until it wasn’t satisfied to stay near the ground, deciding in a split second to make an eight-legged spider run toward the heavens. At the same time, charge pooled at the top of the clouds, aching to return to home ground, poking and prodding below the cloud layer for a crevice that would suffice. The arc reaching upwards attracted the arc grasping downwards. The two met just under the black cloud belly with a violent explosion, momentarily stunned, an entertwined, tangled ball of plasmic energy, each tasting the opposite charge until they finally slid by, continuing on their chosen path. The rift of their meeting grew wider, fracturing the air, lowly rumbling at first, building and growing until the full sonic message of heaven and earth’s meeting had been transmitted to the vicinity’s eardrums and foundations and thick glass panels. Just as he turned back to his monitor the lights flickered once, twice, then darkness. “Thank you,” he said to no one in particular, and turned gratefully back to the window to watch the show.

Google grows too fast, crashes Earth

Google's mission in life is to "organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful." This is a great mission and all-- it sounds really, well, useful. But it also really worries me. Isn’t what they’re really doing equivalent to a massive backup of the world’s data?

When do you need a backup plan? That's right, when you think something bad is going to happen. You wouldn’t go to all the trouble to backup your hard disk unless you thought it was pretty likely to crash. You wouldn’t buy home insurance if your house was indestructable, would you?

What’s going to happen once Google has the world’s information stored on a disk farm somewhere? I'll tell you what. A meteor is going to hit us. Or the earth is going to tilt on its axis and cause the next ice age. Some disaster is on its way soon-- that’s the only way to explain why Google is in such a rush to get the backup done. They’ve gone from 650 employees in 2003 to 4,500 employees today. Google recently issued 14.16 million new shares to raise $4.11 billion to buy some more zip drives.

I guess we should take solace in the fact that the information stored on the Internet will live on even if we don’t last much longer. Once the danger is past, Google will execute the ‘restore earth’s info’ command, and the survivors of Armaggedon can get back to accessing useful information about ‘giant squid’ and ‘anna nicole smith’.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Discordance

You have to love this technological era we live in...you can access email from anywhere, call anyone from anywhere, and reach out and touch anyone from anywhere, anytime. Everything, however, is not all spam and roses...there is discordance...ripples in the electronic fabric of the universe everywhere you look. Here are some disturbing examples:


  • An iPod Nano with 4 GB of memory costs as much as an iPod with 20 GB.
  • Cell phones work best in cars moving at high rates of speed on busy highways.
  • It takes a minimum of three remote controls to watch a movie on your TV.
  • The plane might crash if you accidentally leave your cell phone on.
  • Someone is still using fax machines.
  • My cell phone is smart enough to know what time zone it's in, but will still ring at dinner time.
  • Google is a silly name for a company. Microsoft is still a monopoly.
  • It's a crime to copy digital music, but not a crime to charge $17 for a CD full of crap.
  • You must dial a '1' for long distance from your 'land line' phone, but not from your cell phone.
  • Video games with violence are banned, while the Army publishes a video game.
  • Improvements in scanner technology mean you can now scan *and* bag your own groceries.
  • You can still get lost even with a GPS in your car.
  • The HDTV standard actually contains 18 different standards, some of which are 'HD' and some which are not. Nice 'standard'.
  • It's legal to patent 'one click'.
  • We can track the position of golf balls using ShotLink to +/- 1 cm, but we still need 2 guys with a chain to know if its a first down.
  • The toaster is still the smartest appliance in the house.

Hi Mom! Hope you feel better :)

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

reciprocation

reciprocation
n 1: the act of making and return or doing something in return 2: alternating back-and-forth movement 3: mutual interaction; the activity of interchanging or reciprocating [syn: interchange, give-and-take]

isn't reciprocation built into the human condition? we can't do anything without depending on someone else to give us feedback. do you understand? we can give voice to our thoughts, but we're never sure the words are right until someone says them back to us in a slightly different way. aha! they *did* understand. how easy is it to write something that causes a misunderstanding and you then say you were 'misinterpreted'? in fact, what you wrote wasn't really misinterpreted..it was simply interpreted.

reciprocation is so essential that people get really annoyed when reciprocation is not provided. mean people know this and hold back reciprocation as a way to assert their superiority. i get annoyed when people don't use their blinker when turning. they see that i'm waiting for some indication of what they're going to do next, but they don't reciprocate by turning on their blinker. so i wait, but ponder the reciprocation of my bumber into their sidepanel. hmm...

young kids have become so self-centered that they sometimes don't even reciprocate a direct question with a direct answer. how annoying. maybe their parents never reciprocated thier need for attention and affection...who knows. but one day they will realize, as a wise older friend once advised me, everyone needs help in this world..you don't get anywhere or do anything totally on your own.

vegetables get no respect

why is it people get so upset about fur coats? they weep over the slaughter of furry vermin, but have no problem skinning a noble Holstein for its leather coat and a bag of quarter-pounders. these same people will not hesitate to decapitate thousands of acres of puffy cotton balls just to keep a supply of fresh BVDs and embroidered towels at hand. why is it okay to skin a carrot? or a radish? it's not like they weren't alive at some point. the only vegetables that get any fair treatment are the mutants...those 500 pound water melons and squashes the size of a VW...and the ones that happen to have some markings that make them look like human faces. if you can spot two eyes and a mouth then all the sudden that potato is cute and cuddly and you want to keep it around a little longer...right?

Saturday, January 22, 2005

out my window i observe

i observe that there are a lot of cars on the road right after 5 p m . who are these slackers? do they get paid well? can I have their job? of course I could if i wanted. but do I want? would i be bored with roughly 3 more hours per evening? would the kids get tired of me, overpower me, tie me down, and shave my head? if i was then bald, would i get fired from my comfy little 9-5 job? and then would i have to go back to my previous employer , bald-headed and red-faced, to explain why i needed my old tiring job back?