Aches, Pains, and the Universe

When I was young, each injury was a minor inconvenience for a short period of time. As I get older, small injuries impact my ability to do things more and take much, much longer to heal.

I recently was sharing some thoughts with Rick Martinez, one of my oldest friends and a fellow philosopher—and I mean that term sincerely. The discussion was based on Sir Francis Bacon’s thoughts on the philosophical differences between youth and aging. Obviously, there are physical differences as well.

I’ve been fighting one of the bugs my kids have brought home, and instead of being an inconvenience, it has altered my priorities for the last five or six days. Fortunately, it is now passing and I am returning to normal. However, it is yet another reminder that our physical state is temporary.

What does this really mean? Not to be smug, but God only knows. I think it reminds us that not only are we spiritual beings in a physical world, but that we have been put here to contribute what we can while we can to make this a better world.

However, I like the idea that God has charged me personally with making things better. I hope I don’t let Him down.

The Power of the Press

SONY DSC SONY DSC

My in-laws are getting ready to move, and as they were packing—reaching into the far corners of the attic, they came across a vintage 1905 typewriter and a printing press. Based on e-mailed pictures I thought it was a mimeograph or spirits duplicator, which were mainstays of my grade school days. The mimeograph was better quality and was reserved for the school newspaper. The spirits duplicator was used for tests, and printed in purple; it also had a distinctive aroma of the solvent used to transfer the stencil to the papers.

When I actually saw it, though, it turned out to be an actual printing press, complete with type from the last printing job still in place. This wasn’t some toy with individual rubber letters; each line of type was cast in metal, and I believe it may have used some type of offset process. I have more research to do on it.

Today, we take it for granted that any thought, feeling, or whim can be shared with the world by Twitter, e-mail, blog or whatever. Here’s a selfie. Now here’s a picture of my spaghetti.

However, there was a time, not so long ago that the process was more time consuming. The sieve was more selective, and only those thoughts that made it through several critiques were shared with the world. That was not necessarily a bad thing.

About 90 percent of the e-mails, social media posts, and other messages I receive electronically is spam. Many news articles are followed by a nasty trail of anonymous troll droppings. So maybe the hassles of getting into print in days past was not so bad a thing.

The Most Hateful Creature

THE dog

THE dog

Every day we read how one group of people hates another, cheats one another or lies to one another

But surprisingly, there is a creature even more despicable

—the domesticated pet dog.

My dog will lie, cheat and steal to get an extra treat; his favorite trick is to give the “nobody’s fed me” look, when someone new enters the kitchen.

We used to give him a treat to get him to go to his crate in the evening. Now, he starts begging for the treat somewhere around dinnertime. If he gets one he figures if he gets out of his bed, it restarts the cycle. If we don’t acquiesce, we are treated to a most irritating whine.

And he’s full of hate.

Our dog hates squirrels, and rabbits. He hates the Postal Service carrier, the UPS delivery person and the FedEx driver. He hates the sound of the doorbell, anyone walking by the house, and especially other dogs. And since he’s a hound, when he expresses his displeasure, it’s not just a bark, but that distinctive hound-dog bay.

But of all his badness, the worst is his hate of the vacuum cleaner. After we paid for a top-of-the-line model, he attacks it with bared teeth, intent on ripping hundreds of dollars of engineering marvel to shreds.

He’s a hateful creature, I tell you!

Air Travel – A Business Model to Behold

Airplane! Need I say more?

Airplane!
Need I say more?

You’ve got to hand it to the airline industry. Their business model must be the envy of every other industry.

  1. No one likes to travel by airline. It is an trial to be endured. You may want to get to Vail or Orlando but the getting there via airline is not any part of the fun. Whenever there is an alternative, most people choose to avoid commercial flight. Unfortunately busses take forever, trains are unreliable and expensive and there’s a limit to how far the average person will drive.
  2. You can’t get there from here—not directly anyway. You have to stop at one or more additional airports, each of which gets landing fees, gate fees, profit and taxes from fuel sales, etc.
  3. Customer service is so abysmal that one might well consider it customer abuse. No leg room—let’s pack seats closer together. Boarding, which according to queuing theory could be handled significantly better, continues to be handled in a manner markedly worse than animals entering a slaughter house. During the flight, cabin attendants hawk the benefits of signing up for the airline’s very own Visa or MasterCard to a captive audience. “Get more points so we can abuse you more often!”
  4. Customers have been trained to accept additional charges for anything and everything. Check a bag? Twenty dollars. Check a second bag? Thirty-five dollars. Want to sit with your spouse and kids? Better dig out the gold credit card.
  5. Of course, the airports and the shops in the airports have jumped on THIS bandwagon. Parking fees are such that buying a beat up car and abandoning it at the airport is cheaper than paying for parking. Then, of course, there is the magnitude increase of prices for sodas, and food prices that Manhattan restaurants can only dream about. (In the Charlotte airport—a major connection hub—there is even an attendant in the men’s restroom with not one, but TWO Plexiglas tip receptacles [complete with padlocks]. I confess, he was entertaining enough, but aren’t airport restrooms supposed to be seedy places where members of congress seek out casual sex?)
  6. Fuel prices have been dropping, but ticket prices haven’t budged, even though they went up when fuel cost more. Why? The planes are full, so there’s no incentive to lower prices. (More customers? We don’t need no more stinking customers!)

Airlines have complained of being unprofitable for many years, but there’s unprofitable as in “Ohmigod we can’t pay our bills,” and then there’s unprofitable as in, “The accountants have figured out how to juggle the numbers even better. (Those of you who live near airline corporate headquarters—have you ever seen a rusted-out five year old compact car routinely parked in the CEO’s reserved parking spot? Didn’t think so.)

“Please remain seated until the aircraft has come to a complete stop—at which time we’ll sit here for a few more minutes before opening the aircraft door—Why? BECAUSE WE CAN! We know you have a choice in airlines, but we’re buying each other as fast as possible to eliminate choice as the last tiny vestige of human dignity. You can attempt to retrieve your baggage, or what’s left of it after we’ve kicked, dropped, crushed and perused the contents of it on the lower level. (We get some really neat stuff this way—as well as finding out some of your more embarrassing secrets). Some of you may be lucky, while the rest of you will have to make the 120 mile drive back to the airport tomorrow because after standing in line for three hours it made your luggage check in late. In any case, just like your luggage, your dignity has been shredded beyond recognition.

Maybe their motto should be, “We love to abuse, and it shows.”

 

My Computers Are Out to Get Me!

I may have mentioned that I had to rebuild my desktop computer and replace my notebook/laptop/whatever they’re called this year computer.

I try to backup my data regularly. I have a scheduled routine to backup my laptop to one of the large hard drives on the main computer in the house. I also have a separate hard drive especially made for backups that I use about once a month.

Suddenly, with a number of computer based issues staring at me, I get the message on my laptop that the hard drive is full.

Now, I know Windows 8.1.a.(3)[4]—or whatever—is a memory hog. So is Norton 360. And then there’s Office 2013, and I did start my taxes with TurboTax, but c’mon!

I usually have to upgrade the hard drives and RAM in computers, so this was not the biggest surprise, but still… so I ordered a 1 terabyte disk to replace the 500 gigabyte. When it arrived, I turned the computer over, ready to open the little access panel that laptops have so you can replace the hard drive. The one next to the panel to upgrade the memory chips.

No doors.

It turns out that this major manufacturer* of home and office computers has decided that the consumer really doesn’t need to be able to upgrade. The entire computer must be disassembled; the bottom removed, the keyboard removed, the upper case removed. Therefore, they must expect us to purchase new computers every few months or send the unit out for professional repair.

You have got to be kidding me.

I Googled how to disassemble and reassemble the computer and figured that if I had to take the whole thing apart, I might as well expand the RAM as well, so I ordered the memory chips.

When the chips arrived, with my son’s help, we got the computer disassembled, upgraded and reassembled.

Take that you customer hating engineers and bean counters!

Oh, and the reason the hard drive was full so quickly? Remember how I conscientiously backup my data? Well, the special backup drives have a program included; and if you do not have the hard drive connected when it’s time for a backup, it just copies all the data on the C: drive to the (ready for this) C: drive. I erased all these convenient programs and reverted to Windows built in “Backup” program.

 

 

*I won’t name the company, but since IBM was known for having signs on the wall saying, “Think,” this company put signs on the wall that said “Invent.” There’s no proof that the signs now say, “Screw the customer.”

The Death of a Genius, but Then Again…

townesNPR began their story with “Charles Townes, a physicist who won the Nobel Prize for his part in the invention of the laser died Tuesday at 99.”

As a kid, I was fascinated by lasers. LASER—light amplification by the stimulated emission of radiation. Originally a ruby rod with a coiled light around it, lasers later became the heart of CD, DVD and Blu-Ray, optical cable, and a $3.99 pointer available at the checkout line at Wal-Mart. Oh, and after the fictional light sabers of Star Wars, it is now a potent weapon in the US military arsenal.

My first laser had been a positioning aid for a radiation therapy machine. It was in a box roughly 6 inches by 6 inches by 12 inches and required 110 volts AC power, but it didn’t change the fact that I finally had my very own laser!

Now, in my copious free time I’m building a high power green laser into the shell of a magic wand from an amusement park. My how things change.

After the laser, when it seemed that everybody was getting involved, Dr. Townes shifted to astrophysics where he contributed to the discovery of the black hole at the center of our galaxy. Geniuses are like that, they move on to new areas to investigate.

We read of scientists who decide that we don’t need God. So long as we have gravity the universe will form and life will follow. Such was not the case with Charles Townes.

“Consider what religion is,” he told NPR in 2005. “Religion is an attempt to understand the purpose and meaning of our universe. What is science? It’s an attempt to understand how our universe works. Well, if there’s a purpose and meaning, that must have something to do with how it works, so those two must be related.”

News accounts reported that he died. Many of us would say that he’s merely moved on to a place where his curiosity and quest for knowledge will be finally and delightfully satisfied.

Scene 1: Act 1…….ACTION!

Clint, if you're offended, stop by so I can apologize over dinner. Nothing fancy--but nothing with a dirce-through, either.

Clint, if you’re offended by being associated with my screenplay, stop by so I can apologize over dinner. Nothing fancy–but nothing with a drive-through, either.

Mature man with greying hair enters from stage left, running. Reaches mid stage. Looks at audience with expression of bewilderment, as though he’s forgotten what he was going to do. Scratches head and exits, stage right.

Mature man returns from stage right with a long sheet of paper anchored to a clipboard—turns to audience.

MM: I’m trying to juggle all of the realities of life, but as fast as I cross things off my list, other things are added.

Mature man turns and exits stage left, frantically writing on list.

Mature man enters stage right, still writing on list. Stops center stage and looks at audience with puzzled expression, knowing he just exited stage left; continues to walk and exits left.

Mature man enters stage left with list, and at center stage turns to audience.

MM: I think that maybe, just maybe I’m finally making progress!

Identical mature man (Identical) enters stage right, passes behind mature man, and exits stage left without being noticed by mature man.

Mature man remains center stage with list. Identicals enter both right and left and pass behind mature man. Mature man turns to right, too late to see one identical, then with comic rapidity turns left, with same result; mature man turns to audience looking concerned and slightly upset.

MM: When I was younger, I could do this. Now, not so much!

Two identicals (four total) pass from each side behind the man. Mature man turns and tries to see what’s happening, but misses. As he is looking behind him, two more identicals pass left to right and right to left in front of him. Mature man becomes increasingly frustrated, although he does not seem to know why.

All identicals enter stage, and mature man spins about at first missing each (looking left when right approaches, etc.) but then spins about rapidly, accounting for them all.

MM: What the bloody hell is going on?

Identicals (speaking together): Don’t ask us. You’re the one in charge.

END SCENE

CUT!

Okay, print it!

Oh, wait. That’s not a movie. That’s been my life lately.

And, how has your life been?