Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Sense of Sound and Silence

There are two sensations that remind me of flying--one relating to sound and one relating to the lack thereof.

Seeing a "silent" TV screen--especially a big one--immediately brings up the sensation of being on an airplane. This is not surprising since I rarely ever want to watch the movies or video material shown. Over time, I have experienced numerous of associations between screen images without words and flying.

The sound triggers memories of flying is the fan of a notebook computer that kicks in when the hard drive is active. This is consistent with the sound of the early phases of a landing as small adjustments are made to speed and altitude.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Why Adulterers?

A number of individuals have, over time, expressed curiosity over my outspoken disapproval of adultery. My diatribes significantly precede the advent of Facebook. Back in college, I suggested a symposium on "The Virtues of Temperance and the Evils of Adultery." Back when I was in the Ph.D. program--in the days before strong computer security--I instituted a screen saver in the Department computer lab with the message "Adulterers are the scum of the Earth." Officially, the origin of that banner message was undisclosed, but some people probably had their suspicions. Unfortunately, zealous prudes are few and far between.

Most reasonably people would probably agree that adulterers are disgustingly sinful psychos, but a lot of reprehensible characters fall into that category, so that still leaves the question of why one would want to target adulterers with special zeal.

Cynics might suggest that having never been married, there is little risk in my targeting this group. There are, however, probably a large number of other scumbags I could target without running a risk of hypocrisy.

When first asked, I suggested that one reason for this target is that adulterers are likely to be so afraid of getting caught that they would be unlikely to raise suspicion by retaliating. That, of course, is a reassuring consideration, but hardly the whole story.

A more reasonable explanation might be that although I can intellectually absorb studies that show that a significant percentage of individuals commit adultery at least once during their lifetime, emotionally accepting that real people would do something so stupid in large numbers just doesn't happen. Yes, I know I am naive. If I didn't actually see a large number of people smoking, I would have difficulty believing that they would do something that stupid, too.

Studies have apparently found the incidence of adultery over a lifetime to run somewhere between 10-25% in the U.S. There is a question of as to the accuracy of these findings and, at the risk of stereotyping, rates are likely to be even higher in less morally conscious countries such as France. Some scumbags may deny their wrongdoing or attempt to come up with some rationalization why their contemptible transgressions are "not really" adulterous actions. Other individuals who are misguided enough to want to shock an interviewer or otherwise project a bad image--but not quite reprehensible enough to actually engage in this despicary--may falsely claim to have committed the transgression.

It is very difficult to understand why real people are willing to succumb to the temptation given the disastrous consequences that may result if they are caught. The fear of punishments keeps most people from engaging in various types of criminal activity. Why are the bozos in denial of the potential consequences of being caught engaging in philandery but not in denial of the likely punishment for counterfeiting, disturbing the peace, and murder?

Supposedly, there are only about thirty serial killers in action at any one time--not to say, of course, that those psychopaths can't do a lot of damage--but it is still a very small group. I am fully intellectually aware that the ranks of adulterers is much larger, but accepting this as "genuinely" true is another matter.

There is safety in attacking a largely non-existent group.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

The Joy of Judgment

If you have not had a chance to check out my recent Facebook status updates, you might enjoy the following pontifications:
  • Adulterers who park in front of fire-hydrants while committing their evil deeds deserve to have their cars impounded!
  • Communist serial killer adulterers are even more reprehensible than "run-of-the-mill" adulterers.
  • Adulterers should be retroactively denied Halloween candy and should be forced to pay back historical "trick-or-treat" spoils with compound interest!
  • Adulterers should stop their evil ways and devote the rest of their lives to doing good deeds in repentance!
  • The world would be better off without communists, tobacco, alcohol, adulterers, and raw fish.
  • Ditching classes with impunity is a morally repugnant practice indicative of serious character deficiency, lack of dedication, and unmitigated sloth!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

My Grandmother Was Geekier Than Your Grandmother!

My grandmother passed away peacefully yesterday at age ninety-six. As a member of a family of proud eccentrics, she was certainly a character. She was also quite geeky for her age--and for someone of any age, for that matter.

My grandmother read the news online. This gave her an opportunity to read the Danish newspapers in their entirety immediately rather than just getting the small weekly international edition by one of the Danish papers by mail a week later. She did, however, subscribe to the printed newspaper, but that was strictly for use by her dogs. Ironically, my grandmother was a journalist in her youth, and I can't imagine she would have wanted her own articles to receive that treatment.

Earlier, in her eighties, my grandmother had taken up the Internet and became involved in online forums. So far as we know, she never and an online affair--even after my grandfather passed away nine years ago--but maybe that just shows how much we know. She liked to share with the rest of the family the intrigue that took place between the participants in the online communities. My grandmother was among the early adopters of broadband. Before that, she had a second line for her AOL dial-up. Otherwise, her phone line would have been tied up too much. My grandmoter never expressed much nostalgia for her oldfashioned electric typewriter. She was, by the way, among the first to get an IBM Selectric back in the 1960s.

My grandmother was an avid photographer who enthusiastically switched to digital in her late 80s. It was a certain relief that she was now less dependent on those incompetent photo developers, most of whom failed to meet standards. Never mind about the old days when there wasn't much that could be done after the photo had been taken. My grandmother was a huge Photoshop enthusiast who liked to sharpen and otherwise alter her photos. Although she might have been able to teach these courses herself, my grandmother took a number of online photo courses. She worried a great deal about how many of her photos would be selected as a "Photo of the Week" from among those submitted by all students. She was usually hugely disappointed if only one or two of hers--as opposed to all the ones she submitted--were chosen. She was intensely aware--and highly critical--of her unworthy rivals. My grandmother did not subscribe to Photoshop Fanatic, but that probably has more to do with the reality that no such magazine exists than it does with lack of interest.

Over the years, my grandmother acquired a large number of cameras as new features emerged. Patience in waiting until the new models became available was not my grandmother's strong suit. Those online retailers not among the first to stock the newest cameras could forget about my grandmother's business. Many members of the family became the beneficiaries of the "obsolescence" of cameras acquired a year or two earlier. Still, the newer cameras frequently failed to meet expectations, becoming a disappointment.

My grandmother didn't bother with old fashioned paper invitations anymore. For her yearly birthday celebration, we were all invited by e-mail.

My grandmother did encounter certain computer frustrations. She was not shy about throwing files away. My mother would often receive very frustrated calls from my grandmother about computer malfunctions. It often turned out that my grandmother had dragged important program files into the waste basket, oblivious to any consequences this would have. As it turned out, of course, the consequences were usually minor since her daughter would come to bail her out. As a last resort, my grandmother also did have her laptop, but making do with a puny screen was somewhat of a comedown for someone accustomed to twenty-four inches.

Toward the end, my grandmother did acquire an iPod. You may wonder what held her back for so long. How, after all, can one be a true geek without an iPod, or at least some other respectable MP3 player such as Zune? Unfortunately, my grandmother never had great hearing even in her yournger days, so her interest in audio devices was limited. She did get an iPod when she was bedridden toward the end so that she could look at photos. Limited hearing might explain why my grandmother never used her cell phone much. Still, I have to admit that I have no satisfactory explanation why she never acquired a Blackberry or an iPhone with Internet features. Perhaps the buttons were just too small. Had this problem been overcome, she might very well have taken up texting.

Like it or not, my grandmother was geekier than your grandmother!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Partial solution of the California budget crisis

It occurred to me that if we moved UCLA to Bakersfield, a great deal of cash could be generated by selling the land on which that institution is currently located. This land could be replaced at a much lower cost in its new and more appropriate location!