Aging

The largest of the generations that this nation, and probably the world has produced is beginning to enter the senior citizen time of their lives. And I know that the question that is generally on our minds (since I qualify) is this: “How the hell did I get here?” At least for me, and the others I’ve talked with over the years is the question, of how from their youth to now in their later years, that this time flew and flew so fast. Yet time, at any particular moment, did not do that. So how can you go from those days that just drug, and seemed to be never-ending, to all of sudden realize that your family is grown and on their own, and you have now become the grandparents?

I can remember looking at my parents when they turned 40 and thought that was old. (All from one’s perspective at the time of the observation. And yes, now that seems young.) Yes I was a teenager at that time – 16 if one wanted to know exactly, and most of my life was still ahead of me. I had my ideas of my life direction, the lack of confidence that exists in all of us during those years, and expectations of how my life would be. But without any real life experience I had to admit that I really didn’t know. Some thoughts like, I’d probably be married by my mid-twenties (didn’t happen), I would have a good career (nope), probably be purchasing a home early on (good luck on that one), and I’d be working my way to a good retirement (Mine is okay, but not necessarily a great one financially.).

There were many days and weeks that seemed to go on forever with one problem after another continually arriving making one wonder if this was going to be the way of it. And finding that the career path that one had chosen was not to be, so having to make changes in the middle. Being drafted and serving in the military at a time in my career that was one of the contributing factors of having to leave it later after returning from Vietnam. I was in my 30’s when I married – so different from what I believed would happen, and I ended my time in the workforce in a career that I hadn’t even considered or was interested in.

And when that day arrived I, in a sense, was surprised. Not the idea of retiring, but that I was suddenly there. What happened? It seemed that just yesterday I was looking towards that time where it might happen, but that was so far into the future that it was even less than a dream. Then suddenly I was there. What happened to all those intervening years? What was I doing, and how did I get here? It is said that time flows constantly and only gravity and the speed of light as one approaches its limits has any influences on the passing of time at all. And for us, the living, we have to admit that these influences really have no outward effect at all since we cannot travel at the speed of light or that the influences of gravity is so minor that it is virtually unnoticeable.

Everyday everything around us ages. I found it unusual that it is one of the laws of thermodynamics that determines this. The atrophy that affects everything in this universe predicting a day in the future where time will cease, and there will be no more future. Only the present, and a dead universe and all that lies within. This includes us if we are fortunate to live as a species until that time arrives. With this knowledge it would be easy to become depressed knowing that whatever we learn, however we advance, what we accomplish as a species, in the end, will mean nothing.

You see the universe is a closed environment. One so vast that it is almost beyond our finite comprehension that it is so. Again for the short time that we live we have no way of truly experiencing the vastness that is our universe, let alone the vastness of passing time. So it could easily seem that it would go on forever, never-dying, always expanding. Giving us and other life forms a chance to taste forever, and to grow beyond our youth. To fulfill our potentials that lie before us. Yet with what is known in the scientific community this is not our fate.

For you who are young out there, understand that sooner than you think, you will be where I am presently. Wondering where the hair loss, gray hair, and all the too many aches and pains came from. This generation, the largest one, the one known as the baby boom generation, came from what is considered the greatest generation. Whether that is true or not time will be the deciding factor. And only by looking back, looking at the history of our times will it be revealed and possibly understood.

There are many treasures that all of us chase. And probably the most valuable, and yet the one we put the least value and thought into is time itself. All of us are only given so long to be here, and each second that passes is one we will never see again. Yet all of us waste it like it is infinite, and it, truthfully, is anything but. And once it is lost it is gone forever never to return. So as this time gets by you and you reach my time in life, I hope that you can look back and see your past life and know that it hasn’t been wasted, and what you set out to do with your life did work out. For most, including myself, I’ve wandered far from what I envisioned in my youth. Is that a bad thing? A good question for which I have no answer.

The one thing I’ve learned is that life never goes as one plans, and it becomes more so as we age. I have so much I’d love to accomplish in my life but know that what is left of it will probably mean that it will not happen. Frustrating yes, but reality always is. What we fantasize or imagine is not real, as those many fictional stories we enjoy reading. All of us would like to be the hero or heroine in life, but it is rare indeed that such happens. So in the end we can only do what we can. And age robs us of our abilities, our mind, our strength, we can only hope that what we have done in our lives has a positive effect on this world. Then one day, like this universe, it will end for us and all that we tried to do, tried to accomplish, will be gone forever, be in the past forever, with absolutely no way to retrace and try again.

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Thank you for stopping by and taking a moment, a second or two of your precious gift, those precious seconds and spending it with me. Have a great week.

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Computing in the 21st Century

Before we actually get into this week’s post I have to say that I’ve reached a milestone for this blog. With this week’s post I have reached number 200. And I’m sure that there are many others that have far more than this. Still, for a weekly blog with most over 1000 words per post, and some quite a bit larger I feel that it is an accomplishment. And with this said here is my thoughts for this week:

This time I’m not going to be going into programs, different ways of working the computer, as so many other blogs and posts that one can find out in cyberspace on this subject, talk about. Instead I’m lamenting the fact that as one who has been a computer hobbyist since 1989 that paranoia has become so great that one cannot replace or upgrade a computer without the operating system complaining to the point that it becomes almost nonfunctional. And if your system happens to be out of warranty at the time of the changes – forget the idea of getting help from the manufacturer of your particular computer unless you are willing to pay them money to fix what is basically a problem of their creation.

I’ve been frustrated to the point of almost deep sixing a rather powerful system because of the failure of the operating system to function after having to replace a hard drive. Yes the system is 3 years old – old by computing standards, but it is far from outdated. With what I know, from working on systems all these many years, is that by upgrading certain components that I can extend the life of a system to up to 7 years (And beyond if I want to be honest. I have a 10-year-old system that I still use as a backup.) before it becomes under powered and very out-dated. So when a hard drive (3 years within these systems is an average to where you chance a hard drive failure) gave signs of failing I cloned the drive and replaced it. (And if someone mentions the clone and recovery feature in windows 7, while the transfer was successful, in another system set up similarly to mine, we have the same issues.) Oh, if we want to talk about “Xcopy”, or “RoboCopy” and supposedly the more powerful replacement to the former these did not work either.

In the past such an operation would have meant that I probably wouldn’t have to worry about the system or the drive for another 3 years. Instead I now have an operating system that doesn’t work, refuses to work, and screams that it is not a genuine operating system but pirated. Really? Same computer, same system, failing hard drive replaced, and now everything about the operating system makes it non-genuine? So what has stopped working? No updates, no uploads or downloads, failure of links, failure of saving links, failure of remembering, and too many other issues to mention here. Yet, if I install the old failing drive back into the computer everything works just fine.

The only difference in the system is a replacement hard drive. After the failure of cloning I have even used the recovery software that came with the machine which wiped my new drive clean and supposedly gave me a fresh install. Did this solve the problem or work? Nope. In fact after that I had to use the old drive to clone the data across one more time because it wouldn’t even boot. At this point I longed for the day when one actually got a real disk with the operating system when one bought a computer. But alas those days are long gone.

With the frustration mounting I called Microsoft, since it is their operating system. And as expected, they refused to acknowledge any wrong doing and it was the fault of the manufacturer who had a master disk and had added their own restrictions. I, by their statement, needed to go to the manufacturer and get the solution from them. But as stated above, the system was out of warranty , and “oh if you want to speak to us, the builders of your system, we charge for our time”. No email address, no way to contact them except to call and give them credit card information and be charged for their precious time.

So the recovery disks failed, Microsoft denies responsibility, even though I pointed out that it is their operating system – and by the way they would sell me a new key – and getting in touch with the ones who created the recovery disks i.e. Gateway, which is part of the Acer group, wouldn’t be interested unless I paid them. So where does this leave the hobbyist? The ones out there who work on their own systems? I really don’t know, but I have the feeling that we are going the way of the shade tree mechanic, for which once again I was one in the past.

Eventually I picked up a trial copy of Windows 7 from the net, and with the key I have should be able to solve this issue. Although, in the past, one could reinstall the operating system, repair the problems that was on one’s system and go on with life. It would not wipe the drive clean, and any programs that were there would remain. Now with all the advances it seems such a thing is now impossible. To install now requires a reformat of the hard drive, a clean install, and a complete reinstall of all your programs. Once again, really?

I really do have issues with this. Since many of my programs go back through a number of computers that I either built or bought in the past. Because of the wildfires of 2003, many of those program copies – the original retail copies –  were lost in those fires along with our home. So I do not have such a thing. And since all of this was transferred from one computer to the next, it only exists there. So now I have to forget about them since for whatever the reason, we can no longer simply repair (and this is why I have yet to reinstall the operating system), but must destroy? I really must ask why?

Then we get into backup software. What happened here? At one time when you backed up your system you had the choice of backing it all up. Data, programs, everything that existed on your hard drive. So if the unthinkable happened you could restore it to as it was before the crash. Now all these programs do is back up your data, nothing more. The registry – who cares? The programs, some from companies that no longer exist – not important. Yes within the operating system there is a way to backup everything on your drive and place it on a new drive (a disk image or clone), yet the same issue, the same problem ensues. Suddenly your copy of the operating system is no longer legal. So what gives, and what is the answer? I know that some out there would say it doesn’t happen with Apple, and any who work computers know that this is a lie. Apple is the most closed system out there, and will always be more expensive, and have its own issues. I could easily buy 2 IBM clone systems for the price of an underpowered Apple, and upgrading an Apple, forget that – let alone the limitations on software. So I will not be changing anytime soon, thank you.

At this point some would point in the direction of Linux. This open source operating system based on Unix has been evolving for a long time and is used on many servers. Yet, in the end and at this point in time it is more a minor operating system and as such there isn’t the support in software as there is for two major players out there. That’s not to say that over time that this won’t change. The future of any of this is unknown. Even DOS changed, became easier to work, and over time, and the front ends that were created to make the uninitiated in the use of command lines to work it like a pro. It was easy, in the time of DOS, to create the autoexec.bat and config.sys necessary to change the parameters of your system. And because of the time in PC’s that DOS existed it was necessary to create these boot disks. But all of this is in the past and the two, for now, dominate.

Have the companies gotten so greedy or paranoid that a person cannot legitimately, move his purchased programs to another newer system? Has it gotten to the point that something as simple as a hard drive replacement screams piracy? I don’t know, but I do know that this is stupidity beyond the Nth degree. If a company doesn’t want me as a customer, then by doing what they all seem to be doing will definitely drive me away.

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Next Saturday I look at aging. It is something that all of us face each and every day of our lives. Although from that perspective, each day, we do not see much change. Yet, when we meet an old friend that we haven’t seen in years it becomes obvious. Have a great week, and I hope to see you here next Saturday.

A History Lesson

Many years ago (and I do mean many), I read a short story with this title. It was written by Author C Clark in 1949 the year of my birth, not that this is important to others, just to my family and myself (Not the story, but being born). I had the short story in my personal library, which was destroyed in those wildfires of 2003. Here is a link to the wiki – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_Lesson_(short_story)

As in this short story absolutely none of us know what will survive the ravages of time. There have been many attempts to create time vaults, some successful and others not so, to allow a future generation to look back to that time when the vault had been created. In many ways this is both a nostalgic attempt, and an attempt to say, “look I am here, and I really did exist”. A way maybe to extend one’s presence well past the time of living, to become closer to immortal, if not in life, but in memory.  Yet what is often viewed in that future time is only a name, and holds no true meaning for anybody. In fact once a time vault is opened, the curiosity wanes and is generally forgotten as life presses in on all of us. Again here we face too many issues because of what time does to a society, let alone what a society does to itself. And there’s no guarantee that this society will even exist at that future time.

In a sense when we read the Foundation series by Asimov, in the first book we see a time capsule that opens periodically during a crisis to allow the citizens to know if they are on track to eliminate the time of chaos – that entropy of the vast galactic empire that over time destroyed itself. And Seldon, a social mathematician, had developed the system that led to the creation of the Foundation. Yet, when the ones who would be present to see what would be stated, the answers were never as expected. The society had changed as well as the expectations.

An example of the changes that society dumps upon itself became clear as I watched a commercial dealing with that first period in a young girl’s life. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=NEcZmT0fiNM)  While they made fun of it, keeping it light, the commercial made its point and presented their product. Now, if we were to go back a few years, such a thing was never mentioned, whispered between girls – yes, but out in the public – no way man! And now this is so out in the open that there can be such commercials for public viewing. It leads to the fact that what was once taboo is now in the open, so the understanding, and the culture, when it was taboo would not be understood. With this present openness the past views would make no sense at all. And, of course, even language and specific words change.

The attitudes, the cultural pressures, the atmosphere would have been so different (from those earlier times) that it would be beyond understanding, let alone seeing and feeling the emotions that would have existed. This makes it almost impossible for anyone to be able to look back to an earlier time, to understand it, and to be able to actually come up with the written word, saying that they are the expert on this time period in history and then presenting it. Because we are so wrapped up in our own time, our culture, and the views and attitudes of the world at the time that we live, it is almost impossible to look back and attempt the see the world as it existed from that past time.

Oh we try. But I would say that most of the time we are unsuccessful. And there are many reasons for this lack of success. First off it is because it is difficult in removing one’s self from the environment that one is immersed, and secondly the ones who then read what has been written will always project their own views into what is written. We cannot get away from it. So no matter how accurate the writings, it will immediately become inaccurate the instant someone else reads it. Does this mean we shouldn’t attempt any of this? No, we must. To understand where we are we need to know where we came from.

With this knowledge we now go back to the question of what is it that survives time? Not much really. And if we were to disappear tomorrow, and the earth continued, eventually, thanks to plate tectonics, everything that man had ever created would be destroyed and recycled and returned to the earth leaving absolutely nothing to show that we ever existed at all. Can time vaults survive? At least that’s the hope and some from the past do and some don’t. And like in the story, A History Lesson, what survives, many times, is the most unlikely of objects. And because so little does survive it leads to a misrepresentation of the times when the object was created.

It means that we build a fictitious world supposedly based on fact, and what has been discovered. If you were to look around the room that you are presently in, what do you see? Think about all the everyday objects that surround you and how you use them. Then consider the fact that with the passing of time most if not all would be lost and destroyed, leaving no hint of what they were or what they were used for. If, for example that monitor that you are using to read this survived, without a computer, or power what would it appear to be to a future culture who doesn’t have the ability to operate or understand what they are seeing. What would they think it would be? One thing for sure, it wouldn’t become what it really is, but probably some type of decoration with no value at all. While they were poking fun in the Disney animated movie, Little Mermaid, the object, which was a fork, was identified incorrectly, until later under the proper circumstances its true use became known. And this is very true of many recovered artifacts from the deep past.

And remember, in many cases, politics play an ever-increasing role in what an artifact could be. And the ones on top, the ones in power, use their influence to identify things, and whether the identification is accurate or not does not matter. It is as the ones in power want it to be. And while we may make the extra effort to be sure something survives for a future generation, most of the time these aren’t the particular items that survive, but some of the common everyday items, things that one would suspect wouldn’t. And many times, as in the story, A History Lesson, what is seen, what is interpreted, what becomes another society’s view of the past, is tainted. Tainted because without the understanding behind such an object, the interpretation will always be wrong.

And yet because of this lack of understanding it becomes the truth, until something comes along to modify that truth, changing it once again until something else is found. In a way it is almost laughable because each new find changes the understanding and direction, and yet each past find is now from the past, making it doubly difficult to understand. Since we are looking at the earlier interpretation of a far greater past, adding a new interpretation, all claiming to be accurate only to be proven to not be. While we as individuals as well as a species have memory, and thankfully because also we learned to write, thusly giving us a chance to see that past time through words written at that time, still, the results from these discoveries are and always will be inaccurate, and tainted.

So I leave you with this question: With the many cultures that exist at this time we cannot get it right or really understand in the present, so how can we expect to get it right with the past? And maybe this is the lesson we should take from all of this, a lesson in history, or A History Lesson.

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And, of course, the moment you read this it is the past. Woe is me, when I look at time as an immediate thing, the past comes about too quick, and there’s nothing I can do to change it. Maybe this is why the idea of Time Travel draws us in. We do only get one chance at anything including these posts. And next week the post is titled, Computing in the 21st Century. This isn’t going in the direction that seems obvious with the title, and I’m not giving away anything here. So if you are interested you’ll just have to come back next Saturday. All of you out there have a great week, and I hope to see you here next Saturday – making this present post, by the way, history.

Thinking About the Fourth

Another national holiday is upon us as we observe the traditional date of the Declaration of Independence, the 4th of July. If one was to study the history of that time, the colonies were in chaos, and was coming under heavy pressure from the British Monarchy, who was refusing to bend in any negotiations with the colonies. With the frustration from the lack of response, and the placing of heavier burdens upon the people, whom I might add, were loyal British subjects, it finally reached a breaking point, and with the ratification of this document, after revisions by a couple of others, we declared our independence from Great Brittan. Was this a smart move? History says yes, but at that very moment the outcome of such a declaration was unknown and could easily had led to death for the leaders of this movement.

That’s not to say that even after this declaration that there were not those loyal to the crown, because there were. And, by the way, not that it is that critical or important, but the actual date wasn’t the 4th, but the 2nd. The people involved in what transpired were a unique mix that provided one of those “one time in history” moments where things came together in such a way that it led to the creation of one of the greatest nations that ever has existed on this planet.  Pressures of the times and environment forced those leaders to move in such a way that in the end, they had created a unique document such that the world had never known.

Unfortunately, the way this time in our history is taught in our schools over simplifies, and in a sense belittles what transpired, and makes light of the difficulties that we had to overcome to become what and who we are. (Again, because we have a government out of control, breaking the very laws they have sworn to uphold and protect, we may not remain this great nation that our forefathers saw.) Once the war with the British Empire was over, this fledgling nation had just shed a heavily overpowering and controlling central government, and this was the last thing the colonies wanted was to bring into power another such government. So the continental congress that created during the war, which held virtually no power, and this was almost worse than an all controlling government, was the choice of the colonies.

And let’s not forget that George Washington is called the Father of our country for a very good reason. His true desire in life was to be a farmer, nothing more. Yet, time and time again he answered the call of his fellow countrymen to do what was asked of him. And that was to serve as the general to our rag-tag forces, and to eventually become our first president. His story, which again is glossed over in our educational systems, is truly amazing. Not that the others who helped create this nation were less. Yet, if it wasn’t for his actions we easily could still be part of the British Empire.

Understand that with the weak central government that was allowed during this time (revolutionary war and afterwards), there was a greater chance of failure in this endeavor than success. Corruption was high, promises of support from the individual colonies were often not met, the monies the continental congress created was worthless, and the armies created to fight the British, the greatest power at the time, were weak, ill equipped, and the individuals making up this army would only be part of the army for a said period of time, before being allowed to return to their homes. Requiring the rebuilding of the army almost every year. It is and was not a way to fight a war, or to attempt to break away from the power that they were up against.

We lost most of the battles, had corruption inside the army that led to the defection of Benedict Arnold to the British, and much incompetence existing throughout the colonies. Even with Franklin wooing the French, it had to be on their terms and not how we really needed them. When taken in full there was no way honestly that we should have won the fight for independence. Yet, as it was stated, “By providence of the Creator we were given the right to establish our destiny as a new nation”.

Even after winning the war it took years to establish the Constitution as the law of the land. To create this unique document that gave the power to the states, and allowed the federal government to unify, to be balanced, and to allow no portion of this federal government to have overwhelming power over the other. Just for curiosity sake, does this sound like the government that we now face as citizens? Personally, I would say no. It is important, even critical that all of us look back, study the true history of that time, not what is pushed through the educational systems. You know, a history that must fit the political expedient at that particular moment, or be Politically Correct, neither which will give you the truth. Instead look to the many studies and books on the subject that attempt to portray the people, and times as accurately as can be represented.

We also must be aware, each and every one of us, of what is in the U S Constitution. This used to something that was common knowledge, something that was discussed wherever and whenever people came together. Now it is just words with very little known as to what is inside of this very important document. By not knowing you personally allow the abuses that are taking place. With ignorance comes control, and ignorance is the way that this government wants it.

If we compared what is happening with this present administration to one of the past that resigned to avoid impeachment, it becomes obvious that there is no comparison. The known illegal activities within the present administration is so far and above that past incident that this past incident would be considered minor. Yet, once again, the laws set in place to prevent such a thing from happening is being ignored and swept under the table. So I leave you with this question: Should we be proud of where we are, should we be truly excited that this country is celebrating another birthday? Personally I think  not. In my time I’ve seen much, thought that these incidents from the past – the assassination of Kennedy, the resignation of both the president and vice-president, a president who was never elected, all were bad enough. Yet here we stand at a crossroads of corruption and control so deep that it would have been unthinkable only a short time in the past. And this illegal alien crisis is a prime example. If you think this has happened by accident then think again. Ask vendors of emergency supplies, specifically food and find out who has been asking to buy their entire stock for close to a year. Don’t know? FEMA. And where are they housing all of these illegals? Funny thing, old military bases and FEMA Camps. If you cannot find a crisis to exploit, manufacture one, and here is a prime example. (From Fox News under opinion: http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2014/07/02/medical-staff-warned-keep-quiet-about-illegal-immigrants-or-face-arrest/) Honestly it would have made the old USSR proud. Think about where we are, what we are facing, and ask yourself is this where we should be? Enjoy the holiday, enjoy the many celebrations, but take the time to contemplate what is happening and hold our representatives accountable for their failure to uphold what our forefathers died to create and protect. Or don’t and watch this nation die.

So as we go to the many celebrations, the fireworks displays, and listen to the many speeches that are given, understand that we will only remain free by taking responsibility as individuals, to understand how this country is supposed to function. And by not knowing the laws of this land, by idly standing by and being ignorant, if this nation fails, we can only blame ourselves for that failure. Because the government is supposed to work for us, not the other way around. And if we continue to allow the abuses that are happening then these celebrations that mark our change from colonies of Brittan to the United States of America, will be hollow and empty with no truth or meaning at all.

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It is surprising that half a year has passed us by. The time moves much too fast for me. I really thought that once I retired that things would slow down a bit, and I could enjoy life at a slower pace. Wrong! If anything it has sped up, and the days, weeks, and years are moving so fast that I’m shocked when I look back and realize so many years have passed since I retired. And while this post touches upon this country and our current situation, we all have to remember that like the nations of this world we each have our own personal history. And while not exactly what next week’s post will be about, but maybe somewhere in-between, is titled, A History Lesson. Have a great week and if God is willing, I’ll see you here next Saturday.

 

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