Generational Differences

I’ve got the idea for my NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) novel for this year. I’ve only got about a week to get ready. I’m excited. I’m going to tackle a new genre this time. I’m going to write a science fiction thriller. This is bound to stretch my imagination to new dimensions. I’m not going to say any more about it until after I’ve written the first draft. I’ve got the first draft of my last NaNoWriMo novel (from two years ago) lined up ready to start editing as soon as I finish writing this year’s entry.

I watched a video today, Why did Millenials Ruin Everything, on YouTube. It was very thought provoking. It put a new spin onto the comments I was making the other day about how things were really better than they ever have been before, we just didn’t know exactly how bad things were.

In this case, the presenter is talking about the impact of a society where the culture of previous generations is preserved in TV, film, photography, etc. This makes it hard for subsequent generations to synthesize their own world view.

It got me thinking that the acceleration of advances in technology have many sociological ramifications beyond the prima facia functional impacts that they bring. Things like the narrowing of the number of years, or is it months, between generations.

The common definition of a generation refers to people of approximately the same age such that they have many shared experiences. This includes such nonintuitive things as not knowing what it was like to live in a world that had no concept of things that are taken for granted in the world as we now know it. The example often sited of this is cell phones.

Of course the distinction that I claim is that I never knew a time when we didn’t have TV. My daughters can claim they never knew a time when we didn’t have personal computers. Another common example often sited is the lack of pay phones in the modern world.

The video takes the discussion much further and I highly recommend it. I intend to watch it again myself. It helps me understand the world as seen by people with a vastly different perspective on it. That is both liberating and a little disturbing.

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.

Computer Rambles

I used to listen to my dad talk about cars. I never knew much about what he was talking about but I liked to listen anyway. This post is similar except it is about computers. If you aren’t interested in computers, I won’t be offended if you stop reading now. If you are interested or you just like to read what I write, read on.

I used to own a twenty seven inch iMac. It was a Cadillac of computers. It had a nice big screen and it was a joy to use. And then two years ago, it failed catastrophically. It had been having problems for several months before that but that last failure was absolute.

I had just spent a good bit of money on new iPads for me and my wife as well as paying for new iPhones for us both. The budget for high tech gadgets was well and truly spent. My wife graciously allowed me to use her laptop to do my daily online computing, blog posts, reading email, etc. This went on for a little over a year.

At that point, she was beginning to resent my using her computer all the time. It was starting to get long in the tooth. She lost some files and the backup software had not been working properly. She was understandably angry at me.

I figured out how to meet my computing needs in the least expensive way possible. I was able to take an Amazon gift card that I  had received an buy a refurbished computer with it. It wasn’t a Mac but I loaded Linux on it and it was better than nothing. I almost forgot, I tried to make do with a Raspberry Pi 3 but I quickly learned that it wasn’t up to the kind of daily use that I give a computer.

It has almost been another year. Pam is getting a new computer. I am getting a new computer. I am going to get a Mac mini. She is probably going to get a new MacBook Pro or whatever it is they announce this next week. She is excited. I intend to recommend that she back her files up to Apple’s online backup service as well as a local backup disk.

I intend to set up my computer so that I can switch my monitor and keyboard between multiple computers. I’m not sure exactly how I will do that but I will figure it out. There used to be a device called a KVM switch. KVM stands for Keyboard, Video, Mouse. The problem is, the technology for keyboards, mice, and video monitors has changed. I’m not sure how the same thing is best accomplished these days. I suppose I will learn.

I seem to have drifted off topic a bit. I wanted to talk about how good it felt to use the iMac when it was new and working properly and how I hadn’t had a computer since then that gives me the feeling of having the best tool for the job. My computer is adequate but not outstanding.

As I think about it, I come to the realization that it may not be that my computer is less capable than the iMac that it replaced but rather that my expectations have grown. Our ever expanding expectations of computers are growing beyond the capacity of any one machine.

I have been reading up on the way that large computing operations are approaching delivery of their software these days. For a while they did it with server farms that had load balancing schemes that directed clients to the next available machine to service their request.

This progressed until they were running virtual machines that allowed multiple “servers” to run on any given hardware computer. This allowed them to tailor the capability of each server to the needs of the software without having to replace the hardware that it was running on.

This progressed to the idea of containers. Containers allow software to have custom environments with shared operating system services. They are even more efficient than virtual machines.

These developments equate to on demand computing capability. You still need a certain basic capability on your desk top but beyond that basic service, you can get the rest on demand.

One of my Computer Scientist heroes, Danny Hillis, postulated that we would have computing capability as a utility. It seems that his prediction has come to pass. I’ll have to think about how I’m going to integrate that approach into my daily computing.

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.

I’ve Got Good News and Bad News

I have recently come to the realization that things are not as bad as they appear. Despite the doomsayers and alarmist that are constantly assailing us from the TV, from the internet, and from the newspaper, if anyone bothers to read newspapers anymore, things are actually getting better.

Violent crimes are down in most places in the world. People are better fed, and better educated. Employment is up. People are living longer. We are treating people better than we ever did in the past. The reason that it doesn’t seem that way is that we are also better informed. We hear about the things that go wrong. Bad news attracts attention and attention sells advertising.

There are all of these outlets hungry for attention grabbing stories. There are people everywhere with high quality cameras in there cell phones taking videos of anything and everything that happens. Whenever something disastrous happens, chances are there is at least one and probably two or three cell phones taking a video of it.

So relax. The end of the world is no nearer than it has ever been. In fact, it’s probably not as near as it has been in the past. It’s like the old jokes about there being good news and bad news. The good news is that things are better than they ever have been. The bad news is that things used to be worse than we ever knew.

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.

A Couple of Insights

I sat down with Pam to watch “Chance” on Hulu tonight. It is a series starring Hugh Laurie as a Neuropsychiatrist. I loved him as House. Before that I loved him as Bertie Wooster in “Jeeves and Wooster”. I even loved him as the bad guy in “The Night Manager”.

As dark as “The Night Manager” was, it wasn’t quite as depressing as the first half an our of “Chance” was. It has all the signs of a great show. I just don’t need a show this dark right now. I intend to give it a shot later when I’m in a better mood myself.

I started therapy, “seeing a psychologist” as I sometimes call it, years ago. When I started, my major goal was to get rid of my anxiety. I recently figured out that I didn’t want to get rid of my anxiety, I just wanted to manage it. Anxiety is what motivates me to do good work. Anxiety is what helps me overcome my natural laziness.

I had a similar breakthrough today. Early in my therapy, I complained of mood swings. I admitted that I liked the elation of the manic swings of the cycle but was willing to give that up to keep from having the brutal lows of the depressive swings. My mother always told me to be careful what you wish for because you might get it. Today it occurred to me that the problem that I was dealing with now was the fact that my life had become a monotonous emotional gray.

I’m not unhappy but I’m not enthusiastic about anything either. I spend most of my time struggling to be an adult. I deal with common things, paying bills, domestic chores, caring for my family and my fur children. It’s rewarding in it’s quiet way but I think I could handle a bit of excitement every now and then. Even if I paid for it with a little depression. I don’t ever want to go back to the deep mood swings that I had in my thirties and forties, but I’d like just a little bit of spice back in my life.

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.

Feeling a Bit Flighty

Today’s writing prompt:

You discover that you can fly. No one else can fly, only you. What do you do? How do people treat you?

It was actually a case of necessity, the first time that I ever flew that is. I don’t mean flew like in an airplane or a helicopter or even a hot air balloon. I mean flying all on my own.

I’m not sure how it works. I just jump real hard and I don’t come down until I want to. At least that’s what it feels like to me. The first time I was standing at the edge of a gravel road in the middle of nowhere. I had earbuds in my ears. I was listening to Smells Like Teen Spirit. I heard something and I turned around. There was a big pickup truck bearing down on me. It was about to hit me. I couldn’t jump to either side so I jumped straight up. Only I didn’t come down right away.

I flew upwards kind of like superman. I realized I was getting kind of high up and I started to panic. So, I thought about coming down again and I started sinking gently toward the ground. I stopped myself about twenty feet off the ground. I just hovered there for a minute or so and slowly looked all around. There was nobody around for miles.

I eased myself slowly down to the ground. I read the screen of my phone. I read somewhere that if you can read something it is a sure sign that you are not dreaming. I’m not sure if that is true or not but I could read so I had passed that test anyway. It didn’t feel like I was dreaming. What if I really could fly. What would everybody say? Would the government come and lock me up like some kind of laboratory animal. I didn’t intend to find out.

No, I was going to keep this to myself for a while. I’d have to be real careful when I flew to make sure that no one saw me. But how could I be sure that I wasn’t just delusional? It didn’t seem like I was hallucinating. I needed to tell someone. Let them see me fly so they could reassure me that I wasn’t dreaming. Who did I trust enough to keep my secret?

I couldn’t trust my best friend Bill. He means well but he can’t keep a secret to save his life, or mine. I couldn’t trust my dad. He’d insist that we tell the authorities and I wasn’t willing to take that risk. I could show Friskie, my dog but that wouldn’t really help verify my sanity, would it?

I walked home. It was about a mile down the gravel road to the main highway and then a quarter of a mile more to my house. I must have been really preoccupied because I didn’t remember getting home and going to bed. I woke up the next morning unsure if I had really been able to fly or not.

I hurried through my shower and got dressed. I ate breakfast and headed out for school. I stopped for a minute in the back yard to see if I could still fly. I jumped about three feet high and hung there for a minute. Then I slowly settled down to the ground.

“Nice trick.” Matilda, my neighbor said. Matilda is eight and extremely smart. I was startled but I thought fast.

“Thanks. I’m still working on it. Don’t tell anyone, okay.” I knew she would keep the secret if she thought it was an illusion.

“Okay. But I want to be your assistant if you start doing magic shows.” Matilda said.

“Sure, but I’m not ready to do shows yet. I’ve got a lot of practicing to do first.” I smiled at her and we went around front to catch the bus.

I don’t know where I want to take this story. It has a lot of potential but I haven’t thought about it enough. I also need to wrap it up for tonight so I’ll  just leave it there.

I’m not going to do the daily writing prompt for a while. No one wanted to join in and write their own story anyway and I have got to start planning my novel for NaNoWriMo. I may com back to it again after NaNoWriMo is behind me. Or, I may not.

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.

Time Out for a Soap Box Session

Okay. I blew my blogging streak. I didn’t write a post yesterday. But I’m going to get back on the horse and ride. I’m writing this post today and I’ll write another tomorrow, and so on. Tomorrow, I’ll be back on schedule with the writing prompt that I posted yesterday. Today, I’m going to write a different post though.

Today, we took Pixie to be spayed. She came through the procedure with flying colors. But that was just the beginning of the day. When we got back from dropping her off for her procedure, Pam talked to her sleep doctor and he told her to go to the emergent care place to get her ear seen to. She had noticed blood coming from her ear yesterday morning.

It turns out, her ear drum was fine. She had an abrasion in her ear canal. The doc in the box gave her a shot of antibiotics and a prescription and sent her on her way until she can get in to see the regular doctor next week.

Then we went to Walgreens and Publix for necessities and came back home. After a quick lunch and a short break while I wrote in my journal, I got back on the road to go pick up Pixie at the vet. On the way home from the vet, I missed the turn to the interstate and took a state road half the way home, adding ten or fifteen minutes to the ride home.

I was doubting that I needed to take the whole day off when the day began. At the end of the day, I was amazed that I got everything done. I don’t know if the flavor of the day came through in this post but it feels to me like a microcosm of my life of late.

I set out to accomplish one thing and I manage to do just that. Along the way, I accomplish two or three other things that I didn’t even know that I intended to do. And somehow, I still manage to not accomplish the thing that I would have liked to accomplish if I was going to be an overachiever. Not that it matters, but in this case I would have liked to have spent some time writing on the plan for my National Novel Writing Month ( project. Or playing my guitar. Or playing my mandolin. I haven’t played my mandolin in much to long.

I’m not complaining. I’m observing what happened. I’m trying to learn from what happened. Oh, another thing that I neglected to mention. I also watched NCIS, Bull, and NCIS: New Orleans. That was three hours that I could have spent writing or playing.

It’s all about priorities and will power. I need to examine my priorities and muster some more will power. I’m going to need it to make it through NaNoWriMo in November.

Tomorrow’s writing prompt:

You discover that you can fly. No one else can fly, only you. What do you do? How do people treat you?

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.

Story Time

Today’s writing prompt:

You discover while writing a story one day that everything you write seems to be coming true.

I sat and stared at the screen. The cursor flashed at me. My mind raced. I took a deep breath. I started to type. At first I just wrote about the fact that I was sitting in front of the computer trying to think of something to write. Then I unlimbered my imagination and wrote that there was a knock on the door. It would be a beautiful woman, a stranger with long black hair and sky blue eyes. As I typed the sentence, I heard a knock on the front door.

I got up and answered the door. There was a beautiful woman with long black hair and blue eyes. That was surprising enough. Then she said, “Are you Timothy Roth?”

“Yes, how did you know that?” I asked. She smiled and my heart melted.

“I was given your address. I wasn’t sure I had the right door.”

“Of course. Come in. What can I do for you?” I was a little bit amused with myself that I had assumed some psychic phenomena when the actual explanation was so mundane.

“Thank you,” she said and came in. I closed the door behind her and gestured that she should go into the living room. “I’m here to ask a favor of you. We have a mutual acquaintance. Elizabeth Morgan. Oh, my name is Lilly Montgomery.” She smiled again. I smiled back.

“Liz is a very old friend of mine. If she referred you to me, that carries a lot of weight. What is the favor?”

“I want you to write a story about me. A story of discovery and wonder. A story of a quest. I leave the details entirely up to you. You can do whatever you want with the story when it’s finished. I only want a copy for myself, no other rights to it than to read it. I’ll pay you whatever you think is fair for your time.” She was looking down at the coffee table as she talked but as she finished, she looked up and looked me right in the eyes.

“I think we can work something out. Can I get you something to drink? Some tea perhaps?”

“No, you’re very kind, but I have to go home and pack. I am leaving for a trip for two weeks early tomorrow morning. Do you think you might be able to have my story when I get back?” She smiled that beautiful smile again.

“Yes, I think I can. I’ll write you the story and then you can pay me whatever you think it’s worth.” After all, if it was as good as I expected it might be, I could sell it and more than make up for the time required to write it.

“You are too kind,” she said and got up to leave.

I shook her slender, delicate hand and said, “Have a good trip Ms. Montgomery.”

“Oh, you must call me Lilly. If you’re going to write my story we must surely be on a first name basis.” She smiled.

“Okay, Lilly. How do I get in touch with you?”

“I’m afraid I will be out of contact while I’m traveling. Here is the number of my assistant. She can help you if you have any questions or need anything. I’ll call you when I get back.”

I escorted her to the door and watched as she got in the black limousine parked at the curb. She had a uniformed driver and everything. This was definitely interesting.

I went back to my office and sat down at my computer. I recorded the events that had just transpired and then I projected myself into Lilly’s future. I imagined her getting up the next day and taking a limo to the airport. She flew first class to Prague.

I imagined that she was an art dealer and was investigating the discovery of a missing painting by a renaissance master. Her associate explained that he could show her the painting but only at his clients residence. The story flowed from my finger tips effortlessly. I made sure that she made good use of her beguiling smile.

She met the associate at an eighteenth century estate in an exclusive neighborhood in Prague and the painting was everything that he had promised. She made an offer for it on the spot. The owner said that he would have to consider the offer for a day or two. She agreed.

She decided to see the sites of Prague while she waited for her answer. She spent the next two days visiting museums and sampling the best of Prague’s cuisine. She was even able to get tickets to the opera. Finally she got a phone call from the associate. The offer had been accepted. She was to meet with the client at the offices of her associate to draw up a contract and make arrangements for the sale.

I had been working on the story for a week. I  had spared no detail in my descriptions of Lilly’s adventures thus far. I decided to call my friend, Liz and find out what she could tell me about Lilly. I wanted to see if maybe I could tailor the rest of the story to her personality a little bit.

The phone rang quite a long time. I was about to hang up when she answered. “This is Liz.”

“Hello, Liz. It’s Tim. I got a visit last week from a Lilly Montgomery. She said you referred her to me. I  have to thank you for that.”

“Oh, Lilly. She’s the daughter of Jack Montgomery. He’s an editor at my publisher. She’s an art student, I think. She wanted to meet you. She said she was going on a trip. To Europe somewhere. What did she want?”

“She asked me to write a story for her. She said she would pay me and I could keep the rights to publish the story. As beautiful as she is, I would have written her a story for free. I told her I’d write her story and she could pay me whatever she thought it was worth.”

“That doesn’t sound like you. You must be pretty smitten.”

“I guess so. It just happened so strangely. I had just written about a dark haired, blue eyed woman knocking on the door and then there was a knock on the door. It enchanted me, I suppose.”

“Ah, always a sucker for a mystery, I see. Well good luck with the story.”

“I’ve already written a good bit of it. I was just wanting to try to tailor it to her personality. Can you tell me anything about her? You said she was going to Europe. Do you know where or why?”

“I think she said she was going to Prague, or maybe Berlin. I don’t really know her that well. She used to come in to the office with Jack in the summer and sit drawing in the corner. Sorry but that’s all I’ve got.”

“Thanks. Tell Joe hi for me. I’ll take you both to dinner and tell you how this worked out.”

“That sounds good, Tim. Bye.” We hung up and I went back to writing. I decided to add a little bit of adventure to the story. I wrote about her meeting a handsome young man at the associates office. The young man was named Henry. He asked her out to lunch. They discovered they were both painters that made their living dealing art. He asked her how long she was going to be in Prague. She told him she would be there for another week.

The week went by in a whirlwind. He took her to see all the sites. They spent one afternoon drawing the animals at the zoo. He showed her the Astronomical Clock on the old town city hall. They visited so many museums and churches and historical buildings she could barely remember them all.

Then, on the night before she was to fly home, Henry took her out to the finest restaurant in town. Then they walked back through the mild early summer night to her hotel. He asked her if she would be coming back to Prague any time soon. She said she didn’t know. It all depended on whether she had another client that needed her services in Prague. He said he hoped they would see each other again. He asked her to keep in touch.

The next morning she flew back to New York. She was exhausted when she arrived. She went straight home and to bed. She slept for eighteen hours. When she woke up it was noon. She got up and took a shower and got dressed. She was about to head out to her office when there was a knock on the door.

It was Henry. He had wangled an appointment to the New York office of his firm. It was for six months initially but there was a chance they would extend it. She was ecstatic. She told him that she had to go to work and then she had a meeting that evening. She would be able to see him afterwards for a late supper around eight.

I looked down at what I had written. My phone rang. It was Lilly. “Have you finished my story?” she asked.

“Almost. I will be done by this evening.” I replied.

“Can I come by to get it around six?” she asked.

“That will be fine. Can I offer you dinner?”

“No, I have a dinner engagement at eight. I met this man named Henry on my trip. We’re having dinner.”

I was excited and I was sad. Had I written this story or had it written me? Was there any correlation or just coincidence? Who can say. The world is a mysterious place. Perhaps Lilly would tell me how much more of her story had come to pass.

Tomorrow’s writing prompt:

You discover that you can fly. No one else can fly, only you. What do you do? How do people treat you?

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.