Old school people

I just brought home a Pentium 133 laptop from work that they threw out. I don’t know why but I like to tinker with the things and since it is not working I can’t hurt it. I can actually get it to boot from a diskette but not the hard drive.

I have a Windows 95 CD I can install but it the laptop doesn’t have a cd drive. I have a backpack cd-rom that runs on a parallel port but don’t have the drivers for it. I guess I’ll Google it and see what I find. That made me think about how I used to do things and how we have changed what we do, even while we stay the same.

In the early days of the twentieth century people didn’t have stuff we take for granted, and it is so ingrained we don’t even think about it. Radio, TV, movies, computers; just to name a few. Telephones were around but were so expensive only a few families had them, they were mostly in businesses that needed to communicate with someone outside their area.

By the time I was a kid just about everyone had a phone in the house but some of them were local only, and you had to pay for all calls you made on it or they were on party lines and you had to share the line with the neighbors you knew who the call was for by the rings. It used to be just the geeks and other early adopters but now just about everyone has a cell phone and you can personalize the ring tones so you know who is calling you without looking.

Even as times change and we get used to newer and newer technologies people stay the same. Sure, individuals change over time but personality types don’t. There were geeks when I was a kid, there were geeks when my parents were kids and there were geeks in the stone age.

“Hey Og! Look at this. I took a rock, which we have used for a long time to bash things with and a stick, which we have also used to bash things with and I put them together and they bash things a whole lot better than either one separately.”

Og, being somewhat jealous of the attention his geek friend is now getting from the women of the tribe waits until he is asleep and bashes his head in with a rock.

“Ah, nothing like doing things old school,” Og says.

Did I mention that people haven’t changed that much?

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August 21, 2008 at 11:21 pm Leave a comment

DSL modem problem

Arrrgggggghhhhhhh!

A wire on the cable on my DSL modem broke and my Internetubeywebsurfy experience has been nonexistent of late. Long story short Wal-Mart is not the home of low prices for computer cables. $14 for a cable that should only be $3 or $4 solved the problem but not before I went half insane trying to figure out why I couldn’t get on the Internet in the first place. It was an intermittent problem and every time I thought I had it corrected it came back and bit me it the butt.

I had to buy a 9-volt battery for my little multimeter but a continuity check of each of the wires on my
network cables revealed one of them had a break that would open when moved. I’ll be back with more later, now it’s time to get the cobwebs and dust out of my hair from climbing around on the floor. You’d be surprised how much dust and stuff is in the undisturbed area behind a computer.

August 20, 2008 at 2:11 pm 1 comment

Obama, patriotism and the great American barbecue

Obama has had a hard time with the perception people have about his patriotism, or lack thereof. Whether it is true or not that he is less patriotic than anyone feels he should be isn’t the subject of the post but his actions concerning his use of the flag do bring up some related questions.
Should people wear the flag on their clothes? Now I’m not talking about law enforcement, emergency medical workers, firefighters or someone in the armed services wearing an arm patch or people wearing flag lapel pins but shirts that have the flag as a part of the pattern of the cloth.
Frankly, I’m not for it. The shirts can become dirty or ripped and pants definitely shouldn’t have a flag printed on them. I just don’t think it shows the proper respect for the flag to wear it like that. It’s one thing if the flag is worn on clothes as part of a uniform and quite another if it is incorporated into and becomes a part of the clothes.
As far as I’m concerned there is no question about having the flag printed on napkins, cups, paper plates and other food containers – it shouldn’t be done. I know that on every Fourth of July there are millions of Americans out there eating baked beans and potato salad off of plates with a flag printed on them but I think it is wrong and the U.S. Flag code specifically says it shouldn’t be done.
I know the code isn’t an actual law but those guilty of violating it are the very people you would think would follow the code whether it was law or not. Aren’t they attempting to show by the use of the flag how they revere it? Doesn’t using the flag in such a manner show disrespect for it?
I remember seeing the story of George M. Cohan with the incomparable James Cagney. In one scene, I believe that it was around the turn of the century (19th to 20th), an actress he is attempting to get to star in one of his plays says she doesn’t go in for gaudy displays of flag-waving, or words to that effect. I agree, flag waving should never be gaudy.
September 10, 2001 I was working at Digital Lighthouse in Fort Scott, Kansas, which was a call center for Sony products. I worked in a big room that held about 200 employees. We all worked at octagonal pods, each of the eight workspaces narrowing toward the center. That day there were exactly four American flags in that room and I had provided all of them. I put one on each side of my workspace and gave the other two to friends of mine, Dave and Will Bishop, father and son, and they put them up at their workspaces.
After the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon flags sprouted up like mushrooms in that room. I heard some people talking about it and saying pretty much the same thing that the actress in Yankee Doodle Dandy said. I heard people on television talking about people who started hanging flags on their houses and how they were hypocrites for not having done so before.
I disagree. People show their patriotism in many ways and sometimes, in the daily grind of life, people don’t show a lot of enthusiasm for anything, even patriotism. It doesn’t mean they aren’t patriotic, it just means that displaying that patriotism outwardly isn’t a priority. An attack like September 11 can change priorities, it doesn’t mean a person is a hypocrite if they decide to start showing a flag afterwards.
A flag is flying from the front of my house as I type these words. It really wouldn’t matter if there weren’t one, my patriotism doesn’t depend on having the symbol of my country attached to my house. What matters is what is in my heart and I’ll let God be the judge of that, and no one else.

August 14, 2008 at 11:18 pm 1 comment

How to scare the bejeebers out of an Obama supporter

The publisher of our paper set up an appointment with an Obama supporter who had called her at home. The time for the appointment came and the publisher walked into the newsroom with the supporter, introduced herself as the publisher and me as a reporter. We all sat down and I got out a digital voice recorder and turned it on.
We talked for a few minutes and she told us a little of her story and why she was an Obama supporter.  She was a college student from Nebraska who came down to Missouri to organize some campaign offices in Vernon and surrounding counties.
She said her mother was a single mother and while she was growing up things were good because Bill Clinton was in the White House and he took care of people. She said things were different now, she was away from home and that when George Bush came into power he cut welfare and caused her mother to have more difficulty raising her younger sister, who was still at home.
After about 10 minutes the publisher asked why Obama didn’t support community newspapers by advertising in them. Apparently this triggered something because the girl became very upset and said that she couldn’t comment on the record about anything and didn’t realize when she came in that we would record her and she said we would have to talk with a representative of his media team.
She said she didn’t have the name of the person we needed to talk to on her but she could get it out of her car. She buzzed out of the office and the publisher and I sat there for a couple of minutes and both of us wondered aloud whether she would be back. Some of my co-workers came in and asked what that was all about. They could see her in the parking lot talking on her cell phone. She eventually came back in with a number and gave it to the publisher, then left.
Now I’m not going to vote for Obama, but I wasn’t sending off any negative vibes or anything. I was hoping to do a story on the girl anyway, not Obama. It would make a nice human interest story and when it comes to something like that it’s easy to be objective and do it without becoming personally invested in the story.
Thinking it over I’m convinced she didn’t think about it as a newspaper but as an opportunity to talk with a Democratic supporter (the publisher had worked on (Democrat) Bob Holden’s unsuccessful attempt for Missouri Attorney General several years ago) and she got the publisher’s name from a list of past Democratic campaign workers.
I really felt sorry for that girl, but honestly, there I was with a recorder in my mitt the entire time, what did she think I was recording the conversation for?
I wish she would come back, I’d still like to do that story, it’s the kind that little old ladies like. They come up to me on the street and go on and on about some of the ones I’ve written in the past. It sure beats getting yelled at because you wrote about someone’s brother/sister/father/mother/uncle/aunt, etc. etc. etc. getting caught doing something illegal. All in all I much prefer the human interest stories, I’m no Woodward or Bernstein.

August 12, 2008 at 9:57 pm 4 comments

Word trivia

A British academic has come out with an idea sure to be a hit with the poor spellers in his class – he suggested it may be time to accept “variant spellings” as legitimate. Reuters link here That’s shore to gitta lotta folks upset. However, his idea is by no means unique, no less an American figure than Noah Webster proposed something similar more than two hundred years ago.

Webster’s musings on the matter were chronicled in his 1789 “An Essay on the Necessity, Advantages, and Practicality of Reforming the Mode of Spelling and of Rendering the Orthography of Words Correspondent to Pronunciation,” Dissertations on the English Language: With Notes, Historical and Critical, to Which is Added, by Way of Appendix, an Essay on a Reformed Mode of Spelling, with Dr. Franklin’s Arguments on That Subject” The whole shebang here

Webster got some of his reforms through:

gaol – jail
mould – mold
travelled – traveled
honour – honor
centre  – center
humour  – humor
masque  – mask
publick  – public

But not all of them:

women  – wimmen
determine – determin
cloak  – cloke
tongue  – tung
sponge  – spunge
sleigh  – sley
soup  – soop
ache  – ake
OK, English is a strange language. I’ll give you that. But as far as I can see the guy (Ken Smith, a criminology lecturer at Bucks New University) calling for the variant spelling is doing it because he’s too lazy to mark his students papers wrong for their mistakes, not because, like Webster, he wishes to improve the language.

Kudos to Webster but nothing less than a Monty Pythonesque “I fart in your general direction” to Smith.

August 11, 2008 at 9:10 pm 6 comments

Religious atheism and the calendar

Every once in awhile I’ll happen onto an online discussion about atheism. I usually avoid commenting in such discussions because atheists are the absolutely most fanatical people on the face of the earth and if you say anything the least little bit upsetting to them they attack you with the virulence of a jihadi attacking a synagogue full of Jewish people.

Preparing myself, I put on my cast-iron cup and I’m ready for the discussion. While the dictionary definition of atheism doesn’t admit of it being a religion, some atheists treat it as such, all the while declaring their contempt for anything to do with religion.

Just to be clear, I’m not saying that atheism, in and of itself, is a religion – just that some of its adherents act as if it were. They have their books of prophets (which vary depending on the individual) that they consult and when confronting someone will quote their religious texts with the same fervency as a fire-and-brimstone preacher of Christianity.

I observed the phenomenon lately in a discussion about using ce – common era and bce – before common era instead of AD – Anno Domini and BC – Before Christ

I have no problem with people who wish to use those terms. In days of yore it would not be unusual for two coins minted in the same year in two neighboring countries to bear two different dates, each one counting the years of the reign of their respective monarchs.

If you want to use those terms all you have to do is come up with your own dating scheme. Do you want to start your calendar on the birth of Michaelangelo, fine – do it. Want to start your calendar on the date of the first explosion of the atomic bomb – feel free. Want to steal the Christian dating scheme and call it your own? Hold on there chuckles – that one is taken, do some work and make your own calendar.

I’ve heard the arguments for using ce and bce and they just aren’t persuasive. Yes, the names of the months and the days of the weeks were adopted from other cultures and religions but that doesn’t make the Christian calendar unique, a lot of borrowing is done that way. As far as that goes you could call the days of the weeks by first day, second day, etc., as some Christian sects have done. You could do the same with the months.

No, what makes the Christian calendar Christian is that it starts at the birth of Christ (as best as could be determined all those centuries ago.) If you want a calendar that doesn’t reflect a Christian heritage the only way to do that is to set a start date in a different era than Christs birth.

I’ve heard proponents of ce and bce say “Well you could just sort of think of them as Christian Era and Before Christian Era.” But they are just trying to sneak the camel’s nose under the tent with that kind of argument. They know that if they can get Christians to ignore this and let them get away with it before long they won’t allow any deviation from their usage and saying Christian Era will be outlawed.

There was a time when I would have thought such a statement as I made in the previous paragraph was paranoia run wild but then in the past 10 to 15 years I’ve seen atheists crap all over the United States Constitution in their efforts to eradicate all traces of Christianity from our country. What they forget is that the world is cyclical and the pendulum swings both ways. When the pendulum swings the other way atheists are going to rue the day they started this war, for war it is.

August 10, 2008 at 11:08 pm 27 comments

Paris ad hilarious

Paris Hilton appeared in an ad, posted on FunnyorDie.com, that spoofs a recent McCain ad that I liked. If more politicians could laugh at themselves like McCain did after seeing this then I wouldn’t dread the elections as much as I do.

[Update. I can’t seem to embed the video for some reason. Heres a link.]
Starring Paris Hilton, Written by Adam McKay, Produced by Chris Henchy, Directed by Jake Szymanski.

August 9, 2008 at 3:02 pm 10 comments

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