Thursday, October 29, 2009

Halloween in the 21st Century

Where used to roam demons and vampires,
Sprites, ghouls and ghosts of all types;
In former times we feared what might transpire,
If we ventured out on those dark, moonless nights.

Now we board gleaming electronic chariots,
Whizz to and fro like so many minor gods;
Impervious, casting our cellular-signal lariats,
Thrilling to artificial spooks or fake zombie bods.

However larger demons loom just beyond our vision,
Major disruptions foreshadowed by present events;
Wars around the world, dwindling petroleum provisions,
Economic downturn, corrosive corruption hard to prevent.
The things we dread this modern Halloween night,
Different though they be, can still give us a real fright!


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Time passes like colored clouds of experience,
Floating steadily overhead, offer a swift glance;
They move onward, leaving incoherence,
It leaves one a bit dazed, left in a trance.

Here we are well into a new century,
Onetime protesting youth now combats
Ailments of advancing years aplenty.
1960’s idealists are now aging into irrelevance…

However the younger vanguards have arrived,
Generation Xers and Yers are taking responsibility;
The wars, shortages and problems they have survived
Induce conservativism to survive economic fragility.
Here is hoping their sense of moral outrage
Will not destroy our freedoms in this new age.

Monday, October 12, 2009

From Bricks to Chips - some ruminations on high-tech

I recall those not-so-long-ago times, back in 1995 or so. I had a nice desktop Ambra PC, with a 50 mhz 486 processor. Think it had 8 megabytes of RAM memory. 14.4 dial-up modem. The harddrive was not even a gigabyte, I believe around 540 megs. With this I used Windows 3.11 to learn about the intricacies of AOL, the online world, and later, the Internet as it was back then. It all seemed so amazing. Times change, of course.

Today the average cellphone seems to have a processor at least ten times as powerful. For example, the Apple Iphone is said to have a microprocessor running at 660 MHZ. Not to mention a second baseband MP used as a resource by the main. A PC around 1995 vintage usually ran at 50 to 66 MHZ, using I-486 or compatible microprocessors. This makes a handheld device capable of surfing the web, and storing Gigabytes, ten times faster than the desktops common 15 years ago. Not surprising in the microprocessor techie world - they call it Moore’s law. Every time the limits of Moore’s law, or a doubling of capacity every 18 months, is approached, someone comes up with a hack or fix or workaround to keep things moving and shrinking.

In my humble opinion, cellphones are already too small. Too small to store a respectable battery, too small for human fingers to press the keys, too small for a decent-sized antenna. There should be some kind of logical limit for people to use these things. Of course, when someone figures out how to implant the neccesary hardware right into our skulls, things like battery and data entry won’t be a concern. They will run on our bodily currents (millivolts and milliamps) and be voice or thought-activated. Makes me wonder how we will be driving by then. But maybe the cars will drive themselves, or we won’t be driving at all. Fascinating, as Mr. Spock used to say.

It all is a far cry from the days of iron, ink and paper. You remember those days? IBM or Univac punchcards? Continuous forms printer output? The chain-driven behemoths like the IBM 1403 N-1 printer that spat out all those figures and programs and checks? Ah, yes. All that ink from the ribbons. The paper dust from punchcards and forms, and all those hulking iron frames and shapes, some with rapidly spinning tapes and disk platters inside. Another world. In some remote corners, these things are still running, or at least their successors are. Crunching our insurance policies and bank accounts. But the little miracles we chat and text on are a far cry from the old days. Makes me wonder if anyone here in the US will be able to design and build a computer fifty years from now, or they will all be cranked out by some automated factory in Africa. Or maybe someone will implant them directly into our brains. One never knows. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Afghanistan quagmire

So we are considering sending an extra 40,000 troops into the Afghan mess. In my humble opinion, we should think about the relative cost of committing so many more American lives to this. Another brushfire war in another distant country for another police action. Sure, 9/11 happened - that was a long time and a lot of dead foreign fighters ago. It is time to get serious about wrapping this business up once and for all.

The Dollar is plummeting. Our economy is in a shambles. Our people are hurting, our reputation souring. The Afghan and Iraqi occupations remind me a lot of the Japanese in the 1920’s. They occupied large swaths of foreign lands, including the Koreas, Indochina, part of China. By the time the US entered WWII, Japan had been an occupying power for over a decade. Now, it seems, the US is a long-term occupying power in many countries. This has got to end. We cannot support a world army like this without bankrupting ourselves; We seem to be well on our way to doing so. Trillions of debt, and for what? A feeling of “security” ?

Therefore, my suggestion would be this. If all of the hotheads will not be satisfied until we send more troops, then we should follow the “Powell Doctrine” . Send in 80 to 100,000 troops. Blanket the country, root out and kill as many Taliban and Al-Queda as possible. And then leave. Set a target time for six to nine months total. Where to get the troops? From Iraq, of course. They could move from Iraq to Afghanistan and then come home.

We could monitor the situation from our embassy in Kabul, perhaps keeping a very small garrison there after the mass of troops leave (1,000 total). Either follow the Powell Doctrine, overwhelming force, get in and get out. Or just pull out. Either way would be better than this slow, dragged-out Vietnam II.

I can see bankrupting the country if we are truly threatened. But we have severely crippled both the Taliban and Al-Queda. There is no need to keep dragging this out. I think we have made our point. Time for one last push, and then lets get the hell out. And soon!

Thursday, October 01, 2009

[first in a series of Janitorial postings and musings]

Cafeteria Trash

Sometime in 2006: On a typical afternoon, I go and fetch a large, wheeled cart with an angled front end, almost like a plastic dumpster on wheels. Time to get the cafeteria trash, including the kitchen barrels. I go into the kitchen first, and they have a large pile of boxes. So I break down the boxes, flattening them, and putting them in the bottom of the cart. After that, I begin emptying the large trash containers. One bag is so full, mostly of liquids, that it is all I can do to pull it out, and lift it onto the growing pile in the cart. Why do they fill it so full? I hear muted, sarcastic comments from the kitchen workers. Ignoring them, I get the rest of the trash, put new liners in the barrels, and then move on. Next stop - the cafeteria containers. I empty the two smaller ones by the vending machines. Then, I check the ones inside the wood-grain receptacles. Soon, my cart is full over the top.

Ignoring stares, and trying to dodge people, stay out of their way. I maneuver my stinking load of trash back to the freight elevator, to empty it all into the basement dumpsters. Soon, I get it emptied. Just in time for quitting time. Ending another humbling day taking care of the refuse of others.

The thoughts tumbled in my head, and I mostly ignored them. Why am I doing this? How did I get here? How can I escape it? I try and tell myself, I’m lucky to have a job, especially a day job. It has benefits. Centrally located downtown. I put myself here, so I might as well get used to it. and, occasionally, some real resentment. That sanctimonious little bitch (referring to one of several women who can really irritate me).. She has no idea what I go through. I would like to at the very least least hurt her bad. But I know I won’t do this, the cost is too great. Besides, it could be worse. So I go home and forget the bad parts, glad it is over. And then go to bed, get up and do it all over again. It is what it is.

(I'll intersperse these with other writes to keep things moving along)