Category Archives: Essay

WP0

Wahls Protocol Day Zero

Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired? Me too.

Today is Day Zero of the Mrs and me beginning The Wahls Protocol. No idea what I am talking about? Go back and read my post on The Wahls Protocol.

Terry Wahls is within a year in age of my wife and I. Like Jess, in The Nudist War, Terry Wahls has Multiple Sclerosis. No one … and I do mean no one … knows what causes MS. No one knows a cure for it. Treatments exist, but they are fraught with side effects, nasty organ destroying side effects.

Terry Wahls tackled her own MS by researching the vitamins, minerals, amino acids, etc. needed by our mitochondria. Within a year she went from lying on a reclining ‘zero-G’ chair to riding her bicycle. Seriously go back and watch the video.

As I said, Wahls is the same age as the Mrs. Her MS presented itself at about the same time as it did in the Mrs. When I said that no one knows the cause or cure for MS, I should have said that ‘officially’ no one knows the cause or cure. However I believe that Wahls has a clue, and it’s a clue that applies to ALL of us.

Today the Mrs and I went to Sprouts and bought all manner of fresh fruits, veggies, nuts, and seeds. We also went to our nearby JCPenney and purchased a Nutri Bullet. This is not an endorsement of Sprouts, JCPenney, or the Nutri Bullet. Just details. In fact the first Nutri Bullet failed to work right out of the box. A bad omen?

What do I expect to see if this actually works?
Feeling better
Loosing weight
Feeling better

I will update you from time to time with our progress.

Naturism

WARNING

This post deals with the public display of the naked human body. Clicking on any of the links below could subject you to images of the natural unclothed human form. If you are under 18 or if this might offend you in any way, please refrain from clicking on any of the links below.

Continue reading Naturism

River

Life comes at you like a trip down a wild uncharted river. Somedays are a lazy drift along on slow-moving currents. Other days can be like running the rapids: stressful, fast paced, even dangerous.

Always there are opportunities on the shore drifting past. Do you ignore them or look wistfully at them as they drift past? Do you paddle to the shore and explore new possibilities?

Some days you are trapped in a slow stagnant whirlpool. Do you sit and spin or paddle out and ahead?

Some folks have fancy riverboats, others have rafts. Yet the river and the shore are the same for all.

The Nudist? War

Would real Zombies wear clothes? The answer could go either way. But depending on the circumstances surrounding the ‘Zombification‘, the answer could very easily be no. If the Zombification occurred to a hospitalized subject after a period of illness, the subject would be wearing at most a hospital gown. Anyone who has worn a hospital gown knows how easily they fall off. If the subject ‘turned‘ at home, they might be wearing little or no clothing. Either way, once an item of clothing fell off … or was ripped off … it is unlikely that it would be replaced. It is even possible that a newly turned Zombie would preferentially rip it’s clothes off because they were foreign and unnatural.

Explore a new take on the Zombie Apocalypse with The Nudist War.

(https://contrafactual.com/2014/02/09/the-nudist-war/)

New chapters posted every Sunday at 2:00 AM.

Speaking ‘Cat’

Through my many years of cat ownership, I feel confident to say that I understand ‘Cat’ speak.

You see, cats are very self-centered. It’s all about them.

Meow? (Rising) … Me?

Me-yow? (Rising) … (For) Me ?

Myow myow (emphatic) … Me (too) me (too)

MYOW (short) … (Leave) Me (Alone)

Myew (quiet) … (Who) Me?

Myew myew … (Luv) Me (luv) Me

MEOW (Desperate) … (Feed) Me

• • •

Try out your new-found knowledge of ‘cat speak’ on the following video …

Time Warp

With a bit of a mind flip, you’re into the time-slip, and nothing can ever be the same.

~ Rocky Horror Picture Show, 1975

20140309-232912.jpg

Let’s do the Time Warp again

Several posts ago, I told you that I had figured out how to schedule posts into the future. If you look at the posting time for all of the TNW – Day nn chapters, you will see that they are all posted, that is scheduled, for Sunday at 2:00 AM.

20140309-234701.jpg

Except for TNW – Day 45

When I tried to schedule it for 2 AM, the 2 was grayed out. No matter how hard I tried, it would jump back to 1 or ahead to 3. It was frustrating, but I ended up scheduling it for 1:05 AM and thought nothing more about it.

It just occurred to me a short while ago …

2 AM didn’t exist.

The 2 o’clock hour didn’t exist.

With a bit of a mind flip, you’re into the time-slip, and nothing can ever be the same.

• • •

What would aliens say when told Earthlings shift clocks twice a year to fool themselves into thinking there’s more sunlight.

~ Neil deGrasse Tyson via Twitter

Hank The Cow Dog

20140307-223328.jpg

http://hankthecowdog.com

The Hank the Cowdog series began as a self-publishing venture in his garage in 1982 and has endured to become one of the nation’s most popular series for children and families. Through the eyes of Hank the Cowdog, a smelly, smart-aleck Head of Ranch Security, Erickson gives readers a glimpse of daily life on a ranch in the West Texas Panhandle. USA Today calls the series “the best family entertainment in years.”

Continue reading Hank The Cow Dog

Prior art and patent trolls

20140212-130807.jpg

John Watkinson is an expert witness and on many occasions has had to deal with patent litigation. Here he describes the application of ideas in the art of invention both historically and currently from Galileo to patent trolls.

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/01/15/tales_from_an_expert_witness_prior_art_and_patent_trolls/

WordPress iPhone App FAIL

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
This issue has been fixed in 3.9.1

http://ios.wordpress.org/2014/02/12/wordpress-for-ios-3-9-1-released/
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

The latest WordPress iPhone App by Automattic (Version 3.9, January 30, 2014) writes update to the wrong folder.

For example the first entry of Day 42 (The Nudist War) has ALWAYS been located at:
https://contrafactual.com/2013/07/11/hzv-day-42/

After editing and saving it is now located at:
https://contrafactual.com/2013/07/10/hzv-day-42/

Arrrrrgggghhhh

I discovered this after going back and editing earlier posts.

I thought the post had disappeared until I did a search on Day 42.

Next step … Contacting Automatic 😦

Top 10 …

Top 10 Observations of an old White Guy on Race Relations in the New Millennium

Number 10
Barrack Obama may be the coolest, hippest, Nobel Prize winningest President the US has ever had, but he is not the blackest. Bill Clinton still holds that title.

Continue reading Top 10 …

Rocket Man – what is wrong?

Despite all the other fun bits that I include in my blog … my cats, the interesting YouTube video, various fun facts, music, history … my real reason for blogging is that I want to write fiction. I currently have two main streams of fiction: the Day 42 zombie saga and the Mars collection of science fiction short stories.

I recently wrote a new short story titled Rocket Man.

I included various supplementary material on either side of it. Prior to posting Rocket Man. I reblogged both Phobos Rising and Jumper. After I posted it, I included a history of the Rocket Man song. Intermixed with this was a variety of other video posts and a cat post.

The material on either side of the Rocket Man short story got numerous ‘likes’ … yet Rocket Man got only a single ‘like’.

I am perplexed.

• Did you read it and not like it?

• If you read it and did not like it, can you tell me what you disliked?

Be frank I’m a big boy I can take criticism.

• If you didn’t read it why not?

As always I am extremely appreciative of your feedback.

Thanks cb

Second Amendment

Guns, lots of guns

Earlier this year I wrote a piece of satire titled ATF, a post-apocalyptic strategy based on the stockpiling of alcohol, tobacco, and firearms. Although satirical in nature, and intended to be humorous, there is much truth, I believe, in that essay.

Continue reading Second Amendment

A conversation with CB

This Friday I’m taking today off from work and were going on a road trip to Austin Texas. And by this Friday I mean today is Friday.

As you recall I got one of the brand-new iPhone 5s models.(See bragging rights)

https://contrafactual.com/2013/09/21/bragging-rights/

This post is an experiment in technology. And by this post I mean today’s post. For some reason dictation wants to use the work this when I say today.

This entire post is being dictated on my iPhone 5s. With the occasional delete for extra spaces or perhaps a type for punctuation it’s 100% dictated. You’re even getting the mistakes I’m just going back and clarifying them when I see something.

I am dictating it a sentence at a time. Because it needs to go up to the web to analyze what I’ve just said. And I don’t want to be too long string of words per dictation.

I’m learning about dictation it excepts the phrase single quote
Single quote for a carriage return. Okay that did not work let’s try something else it accepts “new – line “as a carriage return. That’s better.

Pretty slick, Anna.? Are you A a a RRR GGG HHH ask Glenn nation point!

A a a RRR GGG HHH! Did not understand our, Rather yar, But it didn’t understand “exclamation – point”! And by didn’t I meant did.

It is not perfect, but it’s pretty darn good. Backspace delete okay this commands don’t work okay those commands did not work. Return return sorry

One (space

One) I have been writing Contra factual using the iPhone almost exclusively since I got the iPhone

Two) I have been making a lot of progress on the day 42 series. There will be no date 48 teasers I hope to have it out complete in a day or two. Day 48 T-shirts. To sit up ha ha Ha. Ha ha ha day 48 teaser.

Three) I am simultaneously working on the ending of the series. But I don’t know how far to go before I start going into ending mode. As they say all good things must come to an end. They also say “this too shall pass”. Although in truth once I switched to ending mode the ending could go on quite a long time. I’m excited to get to the ending, but then endings are always sad.
Four)
Four)

Four)(Finally!) again completely dictated no corrections mean made– ––– – now I have completely forgotten but .4 was supposed to be. And by .4 I mean line for by line for I mean four)

Pi equals 3.141?

Five (

Five) to WH EW. When last I looked I had over 80 people following this blog. But I think I really only have a quarter of perhaps I half-dozen loyal readers. And by quarter I mean core. You know who you are.

Six) ignoring this particular post., Do you think my writing is good enough to publish? Specifically would you pay real money for something I wrote? More specifically would you pay real money for a digital copy of day 42 in its entirety? And finally would you recommend day 42 to others? Use the reply option to answer.

Seven) this is what I am thinking; and by “; “I meant quote: “, And by quote: “I meant quote:”. It is curious to me why sometimes it decides to print quotequotequote and it other times just a single quote.”Eddie likes cheese”. That was interesting. The logic of this thing is “inscrutable”.

Eight”) okay so this is what I am thinking. I will continue to serialize a 42 on my blog. But once I get to the point where I think it’s finished or close to finished, I will work toward assembling it into a single e-book. At which point I will go back and embellish each of the days as I see appropriate, Such that the e-book will be a more complex version of the serialize story. So my question then to my readers is: what do you buy it or recommend that someone else by it assuming is at a reasonable price for e-book like a couple of bucks bastion Mark. Ha ha Ha. And by bastion Mark, I mean “?”.

Nine) why am I going to Austin today? Number one son is getting married on Sunday. I will be enjoying a long weekend. I will be reconnecting with white okay ES. And by white okay S I mean yolks open paren E old kid sister). Sorry.. Sorry.– – S I GH– – letter Y oh Kay S. Period. Period…. Wedding of number one son. I will also the room that reuniting with my wife’s sister. Period. I will also be we uniting with my wife’s sister. And her husband. Who I knew in college.

11) need more coffee! Standby…

12 open paren
12) just shot a video of Hillary and pickles. I’ll look for it shortly after this post

As number six would say “BCNU”. LOL

As number six would say “be seeking you”

As number six would say “be C C C in I give up

That thing that number six in the show the prisoner used to say

Technical Advisors

Stupid Technical Advisors

So instead of getting the completed Day 47 today, you are instead getting this incoherent rant about technical advisors.

The role of the technical advisor is to assure that the plot of a story, TV show, or movie stays believable within the level of “suspension of disbelief” required by the storyline. Apparently my “technical advisor” (a close friend of mine) thinks that one of my plot devices, key to Day 47, is unlikely and/or unrealistic and/or impossible within the current norms of personal behavior and/or the Laws of Physics.

Now I have to completely re-write that section, leaving you, my poor, desperate readers waiting yet another day to find out what Eddy saw.

Oh well, as long as these fixes keep you from going “Well that’s just stupid” and stop following this story altogether, the corrections are worthwhile.

Be patient.

Dictation

Ever since iOS 6, Apple has included a microphone icon on the keyboard.

20130928-100713.jpg

Above you can easily see the microphone icon. Next to it is the icon for changing between international keyboards.

One of the things that I don’t like about the iPhone is the fact that the keys on the keyboard are too small for my fat fingers.

I’m testing what I can do with dictation. In fact this entire post has been dictated using my iPhone. It’s really very amazing; yet another example of Arthur C Clark’s “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

One of the things I’ve noticed is that the microphone for the iPhone is on the bottom and so I have to be careful about how I hold it otherwise I cover the microphone with my thumb and of course then it doesn’t work. I also just noticed that it doesn’t like the word “thumb”. I get “some”; I get “from”; but I don’t get thumb.

However I think it’s good enough. I plan to begin dictating all of my posts on my iPhone. I think I’ll use it on my next installment of Day 42 (DayZ of DiZeaZe).

Typing on an iPad

As you should know by now, I maintain this blog and create all of my written content on a first generation iPad given to me by Ye Olde Kid Sister out of pity for my lack of an iPhone and other modern technology. Truth be told, my employer provided my with a giant HP laptop PC that I used for everything at work and at home. It had a whopping 2 hour battery life. I thought of it as a portable desktop with a built in UPS. Since my new position (same employer) lets me stay at my desk, I keep it chained there now.

Anyway, the iPad is FANTASTIC and I am looking forward to jumping many generations into the future this fall when the new iPads are shipping. I cannot recommend the iPad strongly enough. (Apple haters … substitute Google/Samsung/Android tablet) Tablet technology is here to stay.

But … the built-in, popup, keyboard is finicky. I don’t know if is my fat fingers, the fact that I am a hunt-and-peck typist, or auto correct, but I seem to be in a non-stop battle with my keyboard. Yeah, yeah, I know that that they make all kinds of physical keyboards for the iPad; some standalone, some attached as part of a case. But I am doing this “old school” – using the built-in keyboard (old school???)

21st Century I.P.

RANT

Hey Googstapos … To paraphrase Arlo Guthrie, “You’ve got at lot of damn gall to come after folks who include copyrighted music in their YouTube videos when you collect and store FOREVER every damn bit of personal information you can about us to be used against us to try to sell us crap we don’t need!”

OK … That about sums up the rest of this post. This is an incoherent rant. Deal with it.

Weggieboy’s comments on my JOSIV5 post hit a nerve.

Now I am not a lawyer and I don’t even play one on TV, so I have no legal insight here. But consider the following: let’s say

    I invite you to my house to listen to my LP record of C. W. McCall’s Convoy
    I invite you to my house to listen to my 8-track of C. W. McCall’s Convoy
    I invite you to my house to listen to my Compact Cassette of C. W. McCall’s Convoy
    I invite you to my house to listen to my CD of C. W. McCall’s Convoy
    I invite you to my house to listen to my self-ripped digital copy of C. W. McCall’s Convoy
    I invite you to my house to listen to my iTunes Match digital C. W. McCall’s Convoy
    I invite you to a local coffee shop and play C. W. McCall’s Convoy for you on my iPhone
    I come to your house and play C. W. McCall’s Convoy for you on my iPhone
    I upload C. W. McCall’s Convoy to YouTube and send you the link to listen to it
    I find someone else’s YouTube posting of C. W. McCall’s Convoy and send you the link
    I give you a digital copy of C. W. McCall’s Convoy
    I sell you a digital copy of C. W. McCall’s Convoy

Oh and somewhere in there is “I go to a local coffee shop and play C. W. McCall’s Convoy loud enough that everyone can hear it.”

Do you see where this is going?

Let’s try to separate “ethical” from “legal”. “Ethical” is doing the right thing. “Legal” is some arbitrary construct decided upon by lawyers and the courts, often in favor of big business and the rich. I say the rich, because the poor and middle class have neither the time nor the money to hire the lawyers to write the laws.

Ethical is paying artists for their work. Legal is making sure that the corporate entities who bought the rights to the music get every penny possible in order to pay large CEO salaries and lawyers to ensure they get every possible penny.

Ethical is not selling something that is not yours to sell. Legal is making sure that no one has access to art, music, information, or technology without paying for it. (How do libraries even exist anymore?)

So back to my scenario of C. W. McCall’s Convoy above. At what point does it stop being Ethical? Selling you a digital copy sounds unethical to me. Giving it to you … possibly. Letting you listen to it? I would argue that every scenario where I let you listen to it, whether at my home, or at the coffee shop, or via a link on the Internet is ethical. Implicit in this is that if you like it and want to listen to it again … you go buy it. (Thus my links to Amazon and iTunes for C. W. McCall’s Greatest Hits). Just ask yourself “What’s the right thing to do? How would I like to be treated? Think of the Golden Rule.

Legal is an entirely different answer. Selling a digital copy? Illegal. Giving a digital copy? Illegal. Posting online via YouTube for one-time use? Illegal. Uploading for download and unlimited use? Illegal. Play in public for others to hear? Illegal. (It is illegal to even sing Happy Birthday in public without paying royalties). Playing for a friend to listen to while in the physical presence of your friend? (lawyers: is there a way we can get him to pay to listen? No? Whaaaa) OK Legal

Ethical – everyone knows what feels right. Just ask the question “Is this fair? How would I like to be treated?”
Legal – you don’t know what is legal without access to the law or statute, the legal opinions handed down by the courts, or a lawyer to explain it to you. Two different lawyers might give two different interpretations.

Ethical is about fair.
Legal is about greed.

Now hold on a minute … You say “We need laws, otherwise people could just do whatever the wanted.” True. But how many laws are at the end of the day all about the Benjamins. ($$$)

Sharing is a fundamentally socialist construct. You can’t make money when people share things. That is the problem with the Internet. Is was designed at its very core to be collaborative, to share. Hence the ability of hyperlinks to jump all over the web. The ease of embedding images and videos from other sites. It was never about making money. You will notice that there are no ads on my site. I am not making any money off of this site. My links to iTunes and Amazon were “doing the right thing” … if you like the music, buy it “here”. Rest assured when (if) I finally have a book to sell, I will direct you to a site that will accept your hard earned currency in exchange for my product, but until then just do the right thing.

Copyright Law

The idea of Copyright Law was an attempt to assure one had the ability to profit from one’s work for a period of time before it transferred to the Public Domain. There was a fixed period of time. Now it seems that copyrights are bought and sold, renewed, long out-living their original owners. Multinational corporations now hold the copyright to books, music, movies in perpetuity. They never go into the public domain. At least it seems that way. Ethical is making sure a musician is paid for his music while he/she is alive. Legal is making sure that the corporate entity that bought the rights from the musician or his/her estate continues to make money from it as long as (legally) possible.

Patent Law

Same thing with Patent Law. At one time patents were only granted to things, actual working prototypes of machines. Now any concept no matter how general or far-fetched can be patented. And it is in the best interest of the patent applicant to patent as many variations as possible to keep another person from patenting the invention out from under him and then suing or threatening to sue once the item is in production.

Even so most patent cases either end up in court or patent trolls end up extorting money from manufacturers who can not afford to go to court. Once in court, the rulings are either completely arbitrary, or determined by the skill of the winning legal team.

Oh well, it’s late. I’m tired. I’ve blown off steam. There is so more more to vent about on this subject, but not now. Respond if you wish.

cb

I Have A Dream

[Author’s note: This post is a continuation of the Welcome to the Future series of essays. If you haven’t read Welcome to the Future, I suggest that you start >> HERE <<]

Excerpted from Welcome to the Future

Negrophobia
I was a lower-middle income white kid of Norwegian-Italian parents. I lived a sheltered, segregated life with white neighbors and white classmates. I am not sure how it happened – my parents, if alive today, would vehemently deny they were racist – but I developed a fear of black people, Negrophobia. I never knew any black people personally as a kid. All I knew about them was what I saw and heard on the news. Black people were angry. Very angry. They were angry at white people. They were angry at my mom and dad. They were angry at me!

 
1963

The sixties were turbulent times. Anyone interested in learning more, will find a wealth of information on the Internet. I won’t begin to try to elaborate on it here, beyond a few simple points. First that the American Negro, the Blacks, the African Americans were righteously angry at being treated as less than human, both socially and economically. Second that my enlightenment regarding the truth began with my leaving home for college and has continued to this day.

Racism is a terrible thing. That seems like such an obvious statement now. Yet as I was growing up, the United States was in the throws of coming to grips with state sponsored racism. One hundred years after the Emancipation Proclamation that led to the abolition of slavery as a legal institution, the American Negro was still socially and economically enslaved.

One of the great leaders of the American Civil Rights Movement was the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. One of his most memorable speeches was given during the 1963 March on Washington, 50 years ago on August 28.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream that one day … little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

Watch the full speech below:

Another part of my enlightenment regarding the Civil Rights movement was listening to folk music, Pete Seeger, in particular. Even now as I research this essay, I am learning so much more than I had known before. (The Internet truly is magical) Pete Seeger popularized We Shall Overcome and it became the anthem of the American Civil Rights movement.

Pete Seeger talks about the history of We Shall Overcome:

This is the famous Carnegie Hall recording by Pete Seeger. It is part of the Mrs’ favorites playlist that she has been listening to on her new Bose speaker:

We Shall Overcome – The Complete Carnegie Hall Collection is available on iTunes, Amazon, and most of the usual places. Cat-Beard highly recommends this and the Mrs absolutely approves.

Where was I? Ah yes, the more you know about a person or people the harder it to harbor unfounded fear. The more I learned about the history and circumstances of African Americans the more I was filled with the same righteous anger and sense of brotherhood. How could I fear someone I respected?

 
Color Blind

In the same way that my Dad made sure that I would never be afraid of thunderstorms, the Mrs and I did our best to raise our two sons to be color blind. To our joy and pride, it worked. Both my sons introduced me to Rap (or is it Hip Hop? sadly I’m not hip enough to know the difference). My collection includes, but is not limited to, in no particular order: Jay-Z, Ludadcris, Lil John (Yay-ya), Chamillionaire, Trick Daddy, and Everlast (yeah, OK, so he’s not Black). I find both the rhythm and the lyrics of Rap compelling even if the language is a bit rough. I will never truly understand what it is like to grow up as an African American now or in the 50s and 60s, but through music I have a glimpse into the soul (pun intended) of the Black experience.

 
2008

From a woman on a bus
To a man with a dream

Chorus:
Hey, wake up Martin Luther
Welcome to the future
Hey, glory, glory, hallelujah
Welcome to the future

Brad Paisley – Welcome to the Future

What makes me the most proud about the Presidency of Barack Obama, is not Barack Obama himself. What makes me the most proud is that White America elected him, not once – but twice. I’m sure that the vast majority of Black America voted for him, but that alone would not have won him the Presidency. Barack Obama was elected by White voters.

One of the things I am conscientiously avoiding in this blog is pontificating on matters of politics and religion. Although it is true that I have strong positive feelings toward President Obama, this post isn’t about Barack Obama. This post is about how far we have come as a nation and as a people to have elected a Black man to the White House. In 1963 this would certainly have been a far distant dream.

Hey, wake up Martin Luther
Welcome to the future
Hey, glory, glory, hallelujah
Welcome to the future

 
2013

So here we are fifty years after Martin Luther’s I Have A Dream speech. Are things different? Unquestionably. Are things better? Depends on who you ask, but I would argue that race relations in America are better that they were fifty years ago.

Do White people still suffer from Negrophobia? Sadly, yes. Recent events in Florida testify to this. Frightened people do irrational things. Are there still too many arrests for DWB? I think Jay-Z would say yes. Are too many African Americans in prison for possessing drugs that are now legal in some states? You decide.

As a nation and as a people we still have a long way to go, but I remain optimistic. As for myself, I regret that I don’t have any close Black friends. I have African American, African Trinidadian, and African African friends at work, but no one I socialize with outside of work. Then again I don’t socialize much outside of work. I have a few close friends that I see outside of work, but I really don’t have much free time after work and what little free time I have tend to guard jealously. It must be the Introvert in me 🙂

 
Next >> Convoy

Why I like Apple

Any sufficiently evolved technology is indistinguishable from magic. – Arthur C. Clark

Usually I compose offline, read / edit / reread / edit … POST / reread / “how did I miss that?” / edit / POST / reread / aaarrrggghhhhh! / edit / POST / reread / [expletive deleted] / edit / POST …

This time I am doing it live. So what you read … NOW … may be totally different from what you read …



NOW.

So as you read this, don’t assume that you are reading the final version.

Now if you follow the web at all, especially if you follow the geek tech sites, you know that the world is in the midst of another “Apple vs …” kerfuffle. I really should strive to use kerfuffle more. Anyway this time it is Apple vs Samsung, or perhaps Apple vs Google, since the Android operating system used by Samsung is made by Google. Last time it was Apple vs Microsoft.

Now perhaps forty-eight percent of all Internet traffic is devoted to Apple, Apple vs Samsung, Apple vs Google, Apple’s innovation or lack thereof, AAPL stock price, Apple’s cash horde, Apple this, Apple that …

OK I just made up that forty-eight percent figure, but you get the idea.

I am not going to tell you why should like Apple. I actually don’t care what you like. That sounds callous, maybe there is a better way to put this. If you like Samsung, Android, Google, Microsoft, or even if you HATE Apple, that’s fine. Just don’t reply with a flaming attack on me or Apple because I will just delete it. I am not here to pick a fight. AND it is my blog. Ready? OK Let’s go!
 

Why I Like Apple

Ignoring for a minute that I have always liked Apple, I probably like Apple most for all of the reasons the Apple-haters hate it. It is a closed ecosystem. What do I mean by this? Apple makes the whole thing. Well OK they design all of it and have many of the parts made or assembled by other international subcontractors, but they control the entire process. They make the hardware. They make the operating system, they vet the apps, they sell content. The end result of this kind of cradle to grave design to delivery system is that, by and large, it just works.

I work with non-Apple hardware and software all day long every day usually trying to figure out why it doesn’t work (it’s my job). When I get home at night I just want to use something to surf the web, read and respond to email, watch videos, listen to music, read a book, maybe play a game, write fiction or essays, and update my blog. I do not want or need an open system that I can hack, jailbreak or otherwise reconfigure. I just want it to work.

 
Enter the iPad

Too make a long story short, my kid sister, who is now on olde woman (she is so going to kill me, Muahahaha), got me an iPad for father’s day three? four? years ago. The very iPad upon which I am typing now. Did I mention that I maintain this blog 100% on an iPad? It is a very olde iPad by iPad standards. It is first generation. Next month or so, Apple will announce the fifth generation iPad in time for Christmas. Every generation of iPad has roughly doubled the performance of the previous generation, so my olde decrepit iPad is truly an ancient outdated slab of uselessness. And did I mention that I just downloaded 2001 A Space Odyssey onto it? And I maintain all of my finances, bank, 401k, stocks, etc. using it?

OK let’s make a short story long. So my sister who had an iPhone (I still don’t have an iPhone, I have an olde battle-scarred Samsung “dumb as a stump” flip phone) called me a few years back to tell me she just got the new iPad. Mrs and I had her on speaker phone so we joked with her thanking her for getting me an iPad for Father’s day which was coming up. Well she felt so sorry that the all time geek of the family didn’t even have an iPhone, that she got me an iPad for father’s day. This iPad. Woo Hoo!

(standby more to come … later … It is 1:21 AM here… Will pick up tomorrow … See it isn’t finished yet)

[8:12 AM Wed. … Just a quick addition, adding the A. C. Clark quote at top and a few more lines below]

Where was I? Oh yes, the iPad. So my sister got me the first iPad not long after it came out. It was the perfect example of “it is interesting, but do I really need it? would I really use it?” I was skeptical. It was really really cool and all, but just how useful would it be? I certainly never would have bought it for myself.

I CAN NOT LIVE WITHOUT THIS THING. I use it for everything. Well at least everything that it is capable of doing (it can’t cook or clean house, but I would use it for that if I could). In no particular order: I maintain this blog. (using it now). I check email (personal and business), I get my news on the web, I get my weather, (with the help of Google, Bing, Wikipedia, WordPress) I ask it questions and it gives me answers I can use, I read articles and videos about how to do stuff, I listen to music, I watch TV, I watch movies, I read books, I learn, I satisfy my curiosity, I take it with me everywhere, it runs all day long.

(uh oh … Gotta run … Later … More to come)

[updating off line now]
I manage my finances, pay my bills, actively manage my 401k, manage my stock account, track prescription drugs and medical EOBs, play games usually in versus mode with a friend. Now obviously Apple doesn’t provide all of these services, but the iPad easily and seamlessly accesses all of them.

My friend who is dyslexic, uses his to read web articles to him. He stated that this has allowed him to learn more faster than ever could before.

 
Wife’s iPad

Eventually the Mrs discovered my iPad. And by discovered, I mean she confiscated my iPad for her use. Last year I got her an iPad of her own, a gen 3 “iPad with Retina display”. It blows mine away in terms of performance and image quality. Apple released the gen 4 last fall and will release gen 5 this fall. Wife’s iPad has 4x the performance of mine. Gen 5 iPad should be 4x performance of her’s. Which would be 16x the performance of my poor olde iPad.

I had her iPad engraved at the sweatshop factory.

[Wife’s name]’s iPad
Keep’a yo hand’s off

She loves it. I put her favorite game, Mahjong Solitaire on it. Loaded her favorite music to it. We soon discovered that she could stream SiriusXM oldtime radio to it. Then we discovered free podcasts on iTunes of all of her favorite oldtime radio shows. I got her a set of the Bose over-the-ear noise-canceling headphones. I set her up with a Google news icon. Just this weekend I set her up with a playlist of her favorites. She frequents the hospital monthly to bi-monthly, so she takes the iPad and headphones to keep her company.

The Mrs is the poster child for technophobic anti-computer Luddite. Yet, she loves her iPad. She recommends it to everyone she meets. She follows the news from Google news. Checks and replies to emails. Talks to me via iMessage, keeps her doctor appointments on it. Tracks her temperature on it. Follows the weather, listens to music and radio drama.

 
iLove iTunes

Much of what I have discussed isn’t unique to Apple. iTunes on the other hand is Apple. This is where A. C. Clark’s magic really begins. The iTunes store was announced ten years ago in April. Recently it surpassed it’s 25 billionth song download on February 6th, 2013.

Click on the image above to see detailed download history.

iTunes Match debuted on November 14th, 2011. With iTunes Match, all of your music is available all of the time on all of your devices, whether or not you purchased your music from iTunes. For a small annual fee, Apple provides access to all of your music. If you did not purchase your music from iTunes and iTunes identifies a better quality version on iTunes, you get access to the better version. The beauty of iTunes Match is that you can download all or part of your music at anytime to any of your devices … or you can stream your music via WiFi or a cellular connection without downloading it (or any combination thereof).

I subscribe to iTunes Match. Mrs and I have full access to all of our music and playlists anywhere, any time we have WiFi access. This is seamless magic.

Did I mention instant gratification? … What was that song by you know who? … Oh yeah, that’s the one. … iTunes has it? Downloading now …

 
Apple App Store

Similar to iTunes Match, any app you buy at the Apple App Store, is always available for re-download. So if I need to clean out some space I can delete apps knowing that I can always download them again.

 
iBooks and iTunesU

Similar to iTunes and App Store. Delete books to clean up. Download again as desired. Nice backlit reader with fully adjustable text. Good for olde eyes.

More instant gratification. Think about book … Find book … Downloading now …

 
Bluetooth

More magic. You just read a review of the Bose Mini Bluetooth speaker. It connects easily and reconnects automatically, or at worst at the push of a button. Same with Bluetooth in my car. I can set up a music playlist, leave my iPad in my brief case, and automatically start listening when I startup the Prius.

 
WiFi

Access to the Internet is automatic with our iPads. Whether at home or at the hospital, or Starbucks, or our local breakfast cafe once set up the iPad remembers and automatically reconnects when in range.

Although I am doing my part for global carbon dioxide production by going paperless. I sometimes need to print out coupons, so I bought a cheap HP WiFi printer. Connection of the iPad to the printer was seamless and easy. Yet more magic.

 
No Worries Mate

Is your antivirus software up to date? Would you know? One the things that iPad (actually iOS) haters hate about iPad is the “app sandbox” design concept. This is what I love most about the iPad.

If you use a computer, and if you are reading this you are probably using a computer, you know that you can use a file browser (Windows Explorer) to view / copy / paste / delete files just about anywhere on a Windows computer. Same is mostly true for the Mac. If you can view / copy / paste / delete a file or executable, so can a hacker, virus, worm, spyware, etc. The iPad is different. Each application runs in its own dedicated storage space. Take for example the web browser Safari. It and all of its data all live together in the same directory. It can not get out of its prison. Viruses can not install themselves on an iPad. It just can’t freakin’ happen.

I don’t have, need, or use antivirus software on the iPad. The only danger is a rogue developer writing a malicious app. That is where the Apple iOS App Store comes into play. This is again a sore point with Apple Haters (haters gotta hate). Apple has strict and draconian control about what can be published on the App Store. This means that an app gets tested by Apple to confirm it is not malware or spyware. I like this. I have enough to worry about. Yeah, yeah, every so often you hear that someone has snuck something snarky onto the Apple App Store to prove it can be done, but really … no worries.

An iPad can be “jailbroken”. This is a process whereby the owner can be granted full access to the underlying OS as the “root” user. However you can now no longer download from the App Store and will need to find a different site. There are many sites, but making sure that you are now getting safe apps is your responsibility.

If you want to poke around in your iPad, monitor storage space, performance, memory utilization, etc. I highly recommend System Status by Jeri Techet, available at the App Store. 20130821-195836.jpg

 
In Conclusion

iPad … Cat-Beard Tested, Momma Approved

Be seeing you …

[Final upload Wed. Aug. 21, 2013 @ 7:15 PM … While drinking wine at the bar of a neighborhood Italian restaurant waiting for my take out order … final (?) edit 8:03 PM … Three glasses of wine … Final proof read by Mrs at 9:00 PM … Final upload at 9: 40 PM]

[Woke up unexpectedly at 4 AM On Thur. Aug. 22nd, 2013 … adding more edits and thoughts]

… or what you read … NOW

 
Next >> Wrestling with Worry

2001

I started this essay a while ago, but I never finished it.
If you haven’t read Welcome to the Future, I suggest that you start >> HERE <<

Excerpted from Welcome to the Future

In 1968, a year before Neil and Buzz first frolicked on the Moon, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer released Stanley Kubrick’s epic 2001 A Space Odyssey. I begged and pleaded with my dad to take me to the Miami showing which debuted in 70mm ultra-widescreen Cinerama – the IMAX of its day. The 142 minute long movie was unique in its realistic depiction of space flight, with ground breaking special effects and a powerful musical score. It was equally unique in its use of long periods of silence to portray the vast distances and length of time required to travel to Jupiter. The original showing even had an intermission. 2001 opened to mixed reviews. My dad and I mirrored the critical and public sentiment. He thought it was long and boring. I thought – and still do – that it was the greatest science-fiction movie ever made. If you have seen 2001 A Space Odyssey you know what I am talking about, if not Wikipedia, the Internet Movie Database, and numerous fan sites do a much better job of describing it than I ever could. If you like science-fiction and have never seen 2001 you really owe it to yourself to see this film.

20130819-175501.jpg

20130819-175642.jpg

20130819-175754.jpg

Recall that in the ’60s and ’70s there was no such thing as VHS tapes, DVDs, or digital downloads. If you wanted to see a movie you either went to the theater to see it, or hoped it would be shown – cut and commercial-filled – on TV. Fortunately 2001 enjoyed frequent returns to theaters after its 1968 release, albeit in 35mm format on a much smaller screen. It enjoyed a cult following in part due to the spectacular light show at the end of the movie. I saw 2001 A Space Odyssey every time it came back to the theater, often multiple days in a row, often multiple showings in a row. I lost count of the number of times I had seen it after my twenty-second viewing. My dream was to someday be rich enough to have my own home theater and a film copy of 2001 that I could watch whenever I wanted.

2001 A Space Odyssey depicted the video phone, video tablets, and the quintessential sentient computer, HAL 9000. The technology may not have existed yet when I was a kid, but the ideas did and I wanted all of it. I dreamed of video phones and personal communicators. I dreamed of having my own computer that could answer any question I posed of it. I dreamed of the future.
2001

Despite the Y2K (year two thousand) “panic”, the new millennium did not actually begin until January 1, 2001. That is because there was no year zero. The current calendar starts with year 1 A.D. (alternatively C.E.). Thus 2001 marked the beginning of the new millennium. This is why Kubrick and Clark chose the name 2001 A Space Odyssey.

As a teenager in 1968, I envisioned the year 2001 to be the dawn of a fantastic new world. In 1968 the world of 2001 was thirty-three unimaginable and somewhat frightening years in the future. Who would I be in 2001? Where would I live? What would I do? Would I be married? Would I have children? Would I be alive? What would the world be like? Would we have permanent settlements on the Moon? Would humanity even be alive?

If you could have somehow teleported my teenage self from 1968 to 2001 (perhaps via a souped-up DeLorean), I would have been amazed at how much had changed. Yet I would have been even more amazed at how little had changed. Listen to the Merry Minuet by the Kingston Trio, circa 1959:

First notice how little has changed since 1959. Second despite the dark humor, please realize that fear of nuclear annihilation was ever present throughout my teenage years. I personally think that global nuclear annihilation is less likely now than it was fifty or so years ago, but I am less optimistic regarding localized nuclear engagements or terrorist attacks. I actually think that although our fears have subsided, the real danger may have increased.

I plan to address Negrophobia and U. S. race relations more in a later post, but I think it is safe to say that much has changed both in the U. S. and around the world since the 1960s. For some folks, things are better, for others maybe not so much. Still I remain hopeful and optimistic. Much more to say in future …

Epiphany

I’d have given anything to have my own PacMan game at home.
I used to have to get a ride down to the arcade. Now I’ve got it on my phone.

Brad Paisley, “Welcome to the Future”

A month or two ago I had an epiphany while driving into work (possibly listening to some obscure “teenhood” song playing on my iPad streaming via Bluetooth to my Prius sound system). The epiphany was that everything I could have hoped for as a kid had come to pass. I have my own human-enhanced computer database that can answer any question I put to it (so does everyone else, but I will gladly share). I have near instant access to any book, song, or movie from my childhood, teenhood, present, and just about any other era. I have my own computer/vidscreen/music player/communicator that I carry with me at all times. I have HAL 9000 as the wallpaper of my iPad.

20130819-175855.jpg

And just because I can … I now have 2001 A Space Odyssey on my iPad.

By the way, the stock symbol of the company I work for is … HAL. I’m not making this stuff up.

Headers

My Headers post got three likes and three votes (one from my wife) for A (sunrise over the Earth). As you can see by the header at the top of the page, I am really partial to the sunrise over the Earth header. Hmm, I wonder why?

And as icing on the cake, number one son graduated high school in the Class of …DUN DUN DAHHH, DA DANH … 2001. I mean seriously how cool is that.
Next >> Momma’s got tunes

Blogging is …

Tomorrow is the four-week anniversary of Contrafactual.com

Hard to believe isn’t it. Well it is hard for me to believe. I have 38 followers! [52 as of August 20] Take a look at the stats below.

20130804-182254.jpg

 
I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Opinionated Man for reblogging my Aberlour A’bunadh post. But OM just opened the door for me. It is to you dear readers to whom I owe the greatest debt of thanks. You read my posts and found them interesting enough to follow, and like, and comment on.

Blogging is like a nuclear reaction. Not a nuclear bomb, but a self sustaining and growing interaction. Spreading by word of mouth, growing exponentially. Like the ping pong ball examples below, but self regenerating.



Blogging is also a human search engine, in many ways better than Google or Bing. When I was emailed the link to the Russian dashcam video, I posted it thinking it would be interesting to you. I liked the music, but would not have anyway to find out what it was. However JeonicDe read my post, watched the video, saw my comment, and told me … no us, all of us … that it was by the group Two Steps from Hell and the song was Strength of a Thousand Men. He even posted an embedded video of the music. I then went to iTunes and down loaded it. Instantly. How cool is that.

I grew up in a world where NONE of this existed, as did many of you depending on your age. Do you ever stop to Stand and Stare at the beauty and miracle of this. This is the basis for my unfinished essay Welcome to the Future . So much of my childhood dreams and fantasies have come true in ways I could never have guessed.

I started this as a way to practice my writing and get feedback on it. What I didn’t expect was to establish a global network of people I would otherwise never have met. This is something I could never have anticipated.

But it is now time to pay the piper … not you, me, well maybe you. I need to get back to writing. More writing. Less blogging. For a short while. So for a short while I will take a break from blogging to focus on writing (with the odd break to follow your blogs).

In the mean time you might take a look at my revised About, Contra…what?, and Topics Pages.

Be seeing you …

 
Next >> 2001

Thank you, thank you, thank you

I am overwhelmed. Figuratively … and literally.

My first Thank You goes to Opinionated Man who kindly reblogged my post on Aberlour A’bunadh. One of my passions is Single Malt Whisky and though I am not an expert, I know what I like. OM stated on his About page that he likes Scotch and even listed two of my early favorites, Famous Grouse and The Macallan. It was only natural that I suggest other options that I find even more delicious.

My reblogged post introduced many, many new visitors to my site. This is where I am literally overwhelmed. I am trying to visit each and everyone of your sites to take a look and personally thank you for stopping by. It may take me a while.

For now, please accept this Thank You until I can do it in person.

cb

Be seeing you …

44 Years Ago Today

Forty-four years ago today at 10:56 PM EDT (2:56 UTC)

20130721-202441.jpg

I watched the live broadcast and heard Neil Armstrong’s immortal words “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind” as he put the first footprint on the surface of the Moon. I watched as he and Buzz Aldrin read the words on the plaque attached to the leg of the lunar lander. “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon. July 1969 AD. We came in peace for all mankind.” The image was grainy and blurred, but it all unfolded on the TV right in front of me … and it was real … and it was the first time anyone had seen anything like this.

Excerpt from Welcome to the Future.

 
Next >> Blogging is …

Gunslinger

The wife and I have been listening to classic Gunsmoke radio shows via podcast. A recurring theme is that of the gunslinger who comes to town and preys on others, following and harassing them until they finally have had enough. When the victim stands up for himself and draws on the gunslinger the victim is out-gunned and killed. Claiming self defense the gunslinger goes free.

Unless of course the gunslinger guns down an unarmed man …

 
Next >> I Have A Dream

Apollo 11 Main Engines Found

The Saturn V main F1 engines from Apollo 11 have been recovered from a depth of three miles below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean.

The Saturn V F1 engines were the most powerful rocket engines ever made. Each one produced over 1.5 million pounds of thrust. The five F1 engines on the Saturn V made it the most powerful launch vehicle ever at over 7.5 million pounds of thrust.

Just over forty years ago on May 14, 1973, I was lucky enough to be among the press and dignitaries sitting on the bleachers or standing in front of the turning basin at the Launch Complex 39 Press Site for the last ever Saturn V launch. I was 19 years old.

My best friend’s aunt was a professional photographer. She got each of us a press pass for the launch of the Skylab space station. For a teenage space fan, who had watched every manned launch since Alan Shepard’s first suborbital Mercury launch, this was truly “dying and going to heaven”.

For several days before the launch we got to go on exclusive tours of the launch site. We were able to see Walter Cronkite’s broadcast booth. NASA loaded us up with press packets and thick tomes of specifications. I can not begin to tell you how totally cool this was.

On launch day I was standing near the countdown clock in the picture above.

I was just three miles away from the launch pad. When the engines fired up, the sound of the F1 engines was felt as much as heard. The low base rumbling seemed to reach directly into my chest and vibrate my heart and lungs. As the Saturn V rose into the sky, I could smell the burned kerosene of the exhaust as I felt the waves of warm air wafting over me.

This was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity.

 
Next >> 44 Years Ago Today

Happiness

Happiness is … a state of mind.

As I read through Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, I keep thinking that I must have read it before. I find myself agreeing with everything I read, and realizing that I practice what he preaches. I am not bragging or boasting, merely observing.

One of the chapters deals with happiness and the observation that one can choose to be happy … or not. Just as I have chosen not to worry, I have chosen to be happy. Now lest you think that I am a self-righteous fool who thinks himself to be a saint, let me assure you that I am far from perfect. Coworkers tell me I don’t smile enough. My excuse is that I am just deep in thought usually trying to find a solution to some work-related problem. Even so, I must work on smiling more.

In conclusion, you can choose to be happy. Why not do so?

 
Next >> Gunslinger

Wrestling with Worry

[Author’s note: This post is a continuation of the Welcome to the Future series of essays. If you haven’t read Welcome to the Future, I suggest that you start >> HERE <<]

Wrestling with Worry

I would really like to be able to say, “I vividly remember the night I couldn’t take it any more,” but I can’t. What I do remember is that it was during high school, I was really worried about something, and I was walking over to my best friend’s house thrashing it out in my mind. I was going over and over all of the various scenarios for the outcome of whatever it was I was dreading, and trying to formulate an action plan for each and every contingency. I remember stopping dead in my tracks and thinking … “[expletive deleted] Every time I plan for an outcome it ALWAYS turns out different from what I expected.” There had to be a better way.

From that point on, I vowed to stop worrying. To paraphrase Captain James T. Kirk from the Star Trek episode A Taste of Armageddon, “Worry is instinctive. But the instinct can be fought. I can stop it. I can admit that I am a worrier … but I am not going to worry today. That’s all it takes. Knowing that, I’m not going to worry – today!” I didn’t stop worrying over night, but every time I was tempted to start worrying I told my self “not today.” At some point, without even realizing it, I had stopped worrying. It took a few years, but I no longer worry. Not that I don’t get concerned, upset, or even angry at times (ask my wife). I just don’t worry about things anymore. Worry and fear cause normally rational people to do irrational things. Worry is counter-productive, it clouds the mind and hinders the ability to think clearly. Worry is fear. Fear is the mind killer.

In the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s, Dale Carnegie reached out to thousands of people with his books and training seminars. His two most popular books were: How to Stop Worrying and Start Living and How to Win Friends and Influence People. They continue to be popular today. My dad was a big fan of Dale Carnegie’s teachings. As a kid in the mid-60s, the last thing I wanted to do was read a bunch of self-help books. As teenager in the late ’60s, I knew better than anyone else and didn’t have the interest in reading self-help books. Instead, as an adult, I had to learn it all on my own. But learn it I did. People are people. We all want basically the same thing. We want to be respected. We want to be acknowledged. We want to be appreciated. We want to be valued. Sometimes a smile and a nod is all it takes. A kind word, and a “Thank you” do wonders.

My dad was always talking to total strangers. It was embarrassing. We went places and he called people by name. Everyone seemed to like my dad. As I grew older I paid more attention to the people around me. I listened more and talked less. I worked hard to learn people’s names and politely kept asking until I remembered. I embarrass my grown sons now when I ask people their names. Yet I go into restaurants and it is like a family reunion. Everyone is glad to see me. Caring enough to learn someone’s name, greeting them by name, thanking them by name means that you respect that person as a unique person – someone of value. Rich, poor, black, white, male, female, Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, American, Russian, Chinese … we all seek respect and good will. Not long ago it dawned on me … “Oh My God I have become my father.”

As part of my research for this essay, I discovered that the Apple iBookstore had both Dale Carnegie’s How to Stop Worrying and Start Living and How to Win Friends and Influence People. I purchased and downloaded them both to my iPad. Better late than never …

 
Next >> Happiness

Welcome to the Future

[Author’s note: This is the first post of a multi-part essay.]

 
Growing up in the Space Age

I was born at the dawn of the Space Age. In the span of time from kindergarten to high school, I had a front row seat to mankind’s first steps to the stars. In elementary school we listened to live coverage of Project Mercury – America’s fledgling steps of putting a one-man capsule into space. In junior high we listened as two-man Gemini capsules practiced the rendezvous and docking maneuvers critical to the upcoming Moon missions. In high school, after class, I sat glued to our television as the Apollo astronauts walked on the Moon. Despite the fact that all of these events were televised, we mostly listened to the events as they unfolded, because it wasn’t until the Apollo flights that TV cameras became small enough to carry into space. We didn’t see the spectacular photos that are now so famous until after the astronauts returned to Earth and the photos were displayed in LIFE or National Geographic.

I watched the live broadcast and heard Neil Armstrong’s immortal words “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind” as he put the first footprint on the surface of the Moon. I watched as he and Buzz Aldrin read the words on the plaque attached to the leg of the lunar lander. “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon. July 1969 AD. We came in peace for all mankind.” The image was grainy and blurred, but it all unfolded on the TV right in front of me … and it was real … and it was the first time anyone had seen anything like this.

In 1968, a year before Neil and Buzz first frolicked on the Moon, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer released Stanley Kubrick’s epic 2001 A Space Odyssey. I begged and pleaded with my dad to take me to the Miami showing which debuted in 70mm ultra-widescreen Cinerama – the IMAX of its day. The 142 minute long movie was unique in its realistic depiction of space flight, with ground breaking special effects and a powerful musical score. It was equally unique in its use of long periods of silence to portray the vast distances and length of time required to travel to Jupiter. The original showing even had an intermission. 2001 opened to mixed reviews. My dad and I mirrored the critical and public sentiment. He thought it was long and boring. I thought – and still do – that it was the greatest science-fiction movie ever made. If you have seen 2001 A Space Odyssey you know what I am talking about, if not Wikipedia, the Internet Movie Database, and numerous fan sites do a much better job of describing it than I ever could. If you like science-fiction and have never seen 2001 you really owe it to yourself to see this film.

Recall that in the ’60s and ’70s there was no such thing as VHS tapes, DVDs, or digital downloads. If you wanted to see a movie you either went to the theater to see it, or hoped it would be shown – cut and commercial-filled – on TV. Fortunately 2001 enjoyed frequent returns to theaters after its 1968 release, albeit in 35mm format on a much smaller screen. It enjoyed a cult following in part due to the spectacular light show at the end of the movie, that (I am told) was best enjoyed under the influence of various mind enhancing substances. I saw 2001 A Space Odyssey every time it came back to the theater, often multiple days in a row, often multiple showings in a row. I lost count of the number of times I had seen it after my twenty-second viewing. My dream was to someday be rich enough to have my own home theater and a film copy of 2001 that I could watch whenever I wanted.

 
Growing up in the Cold War

I was also born at the height of the Cold War. When I was eight years old, the Russians decided to put short-range nuclear missiles in Cuba, four hundred miles away from my home in South Florida. At a cruising speed of six thousand miles per hour, they would take less than four minutes to reach us. I was in the third grade at the time and didn’t fully appreciate the fact that four minutes isn’t a whole lot of time to “Duck and Cover”. I distinctly remember driving with my dad past one of the horse racing tracks that had been commandeered by the military as a staging area for a planned invasion of Cuba. I just thought it was cool to see all the tents and trucks and jeeps and tanks. Only now do I appreciate how scared shitless our parents must have been at the time. Although the storage and launch facilities were built, the missiles had yet to be delivered. For thirteen days in October of 1962 the US and the Soviet Union stood on the brink of nuclear war as the US established and maintained an aerial and naval blockade of Cuba to keep the Russians from delivering the missiles. My eight year old self grasped none of this. I just knew that the Russians were the “bad guys”.

The Russian space missions never got television coverage. Perhaps it was because the Russians were the bad guys or because they spoke a language we didn’t understand or because the Russians never televised their activities. Consequently I never really knew that much about Russian space accomplishments as a kid. As I got older I knew that they beat us into space with both the first satellite and the first cosmonaut. They had the first woman in space and the first space walk. They also seemed to have men and women in space both more frequently and much longer than we had men in space. In many ways the Russians were both better at and more committed to space exploration than we were. Which is why the US was so determined to beat the Russians to the Moon. The manned space race was primarily political and technological, any science was purely incidental.

By high school I was fascinated by the Russians (being the bad guys and all). I discovered that the small local library near our home had a Berlitz “Teach Yourself Russian” book. I spent the summer trying to teach myself Russian. Imagine my excitement when it dawned on me that the “CCCP” so prominent on Russian space suit helmets was actually “SSSR”‘ where the first “S” stood for “Soyuz” (Союз) or “Union.” CCCP stood for USSR. The Russian space capsule first used in 1967, and still used today to ferry cosmonauts and astronauts to the International Space Station, is called Soyuz.

 
Growing up Geek

Bing Dictionary defines geek (n) as:
1) awkward person: somebody regarded as unattractive and socially awkward
2) obsessive computer user: somebody who is a proud or enthusiastic user of computers or other technology, sometimes to an excessive degree

Roger that. Guilty as charged.

“Awkward and unattractive” I certainly thought I was unattractive. I was also very shy, lacked self confidence and was definitely socially awkward. But I was also smart, interested in science and learning, and probably a bit ADD. I got harassed a lot by the “cool” guys.

“User of computers or other technology” As a kid growing up in the ’60s, I had access to none of this. It didn’t exist. Try to imagine (if you can):

  • No HD television, no color television; I grew up with black & white TV
  • No satellite, cable, or digital television; just the standard analog network VHF channels 2 – 13 and the occasional independent UHF channel
  • No on-demand, no Roku, no Apple TV, no Netflix, no Hulu, no DVR, no DVD, no VHS; you watched what was on at the time or you waited for what you wanted to see to come on
  • No cell phone cameras, no digital cameras, no webcams, no camcorders; both still and movie cameras used film that needed to be developed before you could see the results
  • No Internet, satellite, or digital radio, no FM radio; only AM radio
  • No iTunes, no iPods, no MP3 players, no play lists, no CD players, no cassette decks; I had a record player that played vinyl 33 1/3 RPM Long Play albums or 45 RPM singles
  • No FaceTime, no Skype, no video conferencing, no iMessage, no instant messaging, no email; you talked on the phone, met in person, or wrote and mailed paper letters
  • No Facebook, no LinkedIn, no Twitter, no blogs; “networking” involved cocktail parties, golf games, business lunches, and other actual “face time”
  • No Meeting Place, no WebEx, no GoToMeeting, no Live Meeting; meetings required a physical presence somewhere
  • No smart phones, no cell phones, no satellite phones, no pagers, no texting, no answering machines; only land-line phones at home and if you needed to make a call away from home there were coin-operated “pay phones”
  • No Google/Bing/Apple/MapQuest Maps, no Google Earth, no Google Street View, no Waze, no turn-by-turn directions, no car navigation systems, no GPS; we had paper maps
  • No Google, no Bing, no Yahoo, no YouTube, no Yelp, no Siri; if you wanted to find out about something or how to do something or where something was located, you went to the library to look it up in an encyclopedia, dictionary, atlas, almanac, or other reference book
  • No Internet, no iPads, no laptop computers, no desktop computers, no graphing calculators, no scientific calculators, no business calculators, no basic “+ – x ÷” four-function calculators; only mechanical adding machines, slide rules, and pencil & paper

None of what we take for granted today existed during my K-12 school years. Yet the science-fiction community gave hints of what was to come. Literature, movies, and TV shows were replete with voice responsive, talking computers and robots. Star Trek debuted in the fall of 1966 when I was in junior high. It presaged video conferencing, data tablets, flip phone communicators, and verbal computers among other modern technologies. Also in 1966, Robert Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress introduced the concept of a sentient networked computer named “Mike”, whose memory and cognitive processes were distributed across various locations in and around the Moon. 2001 A Space Odyssey debuted two years later and depicted the video phone, video tablets, and the quintessential sentient computer, HAL 9000. The technology may not have existed yet when I was a kid, but the ideas did and I wanted all of it. I dreamed of video phones and personal communicators. I dreamed of having my own computer that could answer any question I posed of it. I dreamed of the future.

When I go back and reread the above section I realize that I must come across as one of those grizzled old coots who go on and on about how easy the kids of today have it and how hard it was back in the day. “You durn kids have it too easy today with your microwave ovens and your meals ready to eat and such. Why when I was growing up and we wanted a hot meal, we had to run down a pig on foot and then find us a lava flow to cook it over. Golly Bob Howdy you durn kids just don’t know how easy you’ve got it now.”

I turn sixty later this year and I just don’t feel that old. Yet when you stop to think about it, it is truly mind boggling to realize what has changed in just the last forty years especially when you consider that we put man on the Moon without any of the technology we take for granted today. Sadly, the last footprint was also left on the Moon forty years ago. No one has been back since.

 
Growing up Scared

As a kid I was scared. My mother was a worrier. She worried about anything and everything. She worried so much she had ulcers (ignoring the fact the no one knew about H. pylori back then). Her worrying rubbed off on me. I identified strongly with Charlie Brown who was the main character of the popular cartoon strip Peanuts by Charles Schultz. Charlie Brown was the poster child for worry. One of my favorite quotes was “I’ve developed a new philosophy… I only dread one day at a time.”

It’s not as if there wasn’t already plenty of stuff for a kid to be scared of. Every year I became more and more aware of the potential for and consequences of nuclear war. I may not have appreciated the Cuban Missile Crisis when it occurred, but by the time junior high rolled around I had a pretty good understanding the dangers of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. Then there was the War in Vietnam, which came into our homes every evening at dinner time on the network news. Due to the draft, every male child grew up with the certain knowledge of being sent off to kill or be killed once he finished high school or, if deferred, college. It should be no surprise to anyone if I remind you that Vietnam was an extremely unpopular war. So not only were we treated to nightly scenes of maimed and murdered soldiers, but also nightly scenes of the bloody clashes between riot police and protesters. My entire K-12 TV news experience was filled with, to quote Arlo Guthrie, “blood and gore and guts.” The music scene wasn’t any cheerier. Much of the best music of the late ’60s focused on war and death and anger and sadness. Happy days?

I was a lower-middle income white kid of Norwegian-Italian parents. I lived a sheltered, segregated life with white neighbors and white classmates. I am not sure how it happened – my parents, if alive today, would vehemently deny they were racist – but I developed a fear of black people, Negrophobia. I never knew any black people personally as a kid. All I knew about them was what I saw and heard on the news. Black people were angry. Very angry. They were angry at white people. They were angry at my mom and dad. They were angry at me!

Why were they so angry? According to my parents and the evening news it was because Communist inspired agitators were inciting racial hatred (I didn’t learn the truth until later in life). These Communist agitators had names like Malcolm X, the Black Panthers, Stokely Carmichael, and Martin Luther King, Jr. They were leading marches to Selma, and Birmingham, and Washington D.C. Tens of thousands of angry white-hating black people. To make matters worse there was talk of forced integration. I was going to be put in class with big angry white-hating black kids.

To be fair I was also afraid of big angry geek-hating jocks. I faced the worst of all possible scenarios, being put in class with big angry geek-hating black jocks. Sounds ludicrous doesn’t it. (Not to be confused with Christopher Brian Bridges, whose music and acting I enjoy.) As an adult, I would discover that my childhood fears were baseless and that forced integration was perhaps the best solution to the evil of segregation. Segregation leads to ignorance and ignorance leads to fear. To quote from Frank Herbert’s Dune: “Fear is the mind killer.

As much as my mother worried about anything, she worried about me. Like everyone else at the time, both of my parents “smoked like chimneys.” Whether I was a premie or just low birth weight, I was small. To make matters worse, I was born with congenital double inguinal hernias (I will spare you the details – that is what the Internet is for). Eventually my intestines became strangulated. I nearly died. I was only a few months old and was one of the youngest and smallest patients to have this kind of corrective surgery. As a result, my parents became overly protective of me. I wasn’t always allowed to do things other kids did. This made me fearful and insecure. I feared failure because I rarely was put in a position to experience it and learn to get over it. I worried about everything. I over analyzed every social situation trying to predict the outcome before I did anything. I was a poster child for “Analysis Paralysis.” Did I mention I was socially awkward?

Despite the fact that my parents love for me caused them to be overly protective, my dad did something equally amazing for me. I have always loved thunderstorms. I love the lightning and I love the thunder. I think that thunderstorms are one of the most exhilarating of all natural phenomenon. There is a reason for this. My dad grew up in an orphanage. It was not uncommon at the time for single mothers who could not care for their children to abandon them at an orphanage. Summertime in Florida produces severe afternoon thunderstorms. The nuns at the orphanage were afraid that lightening would hit the building and set fire to it. Rather than face the possibility of an orphanage full of trapped children burning to the ground, whenever a thunderstorm approached, the nuns would make the children go outside and lie facedown in the grass until the storm passed. Needless to say, my dad was terrified of thunderstorms; shaking, vomiting, fetal position terrified of thunderstorms. Dad swore to himself that I was never going to be afraid of lightning and thunder like he was. From my earliest days my dad would pick me up and bounce me on his knee during storms. “See the lightning,” he would say, “now wait, here it comes … BADDA BOOM.” I would giggle and laugh. He showed no fear, why should I. Of course, I remember none of this. I was too young. But I do know that I love lightning and thunder. Whenever my dad told this story he would add one more thing … by making sure that I was never afraid of thunderstorms he had cured his own fear too.

 
INTERMISSION

 
Look around it’s all so clear. Wherever we were going, well we’re here.
So many things I never thought I’d see – happening right in front of me.

Brad Paisley – Welcome to the Future

Even if you have heard this song before, please take few minutes to click on the link above and watch the video. It is a link to the official whitehouse.gov YouTube video of Brad Paisley singing at the White House. Please listen. It is the soundtrack for the rest of this essay.

 
Next >> Apollo 11 Main engines Found