Sunday, February 26, 2006

How the Times Have Changed....

My mother's brother died last week at age 81. This wasn't a shock, although it wasn't really expected either. Nor is it really a sad occasion, although it will be for those close to him. My uncle had led a full life and now lived in a good deal of pain from numerous by-pass operations. Further, his wife had preceded him a few years before. So the sadness in this case is for the survivors and their loss. My uncle's death now leaves my mother as the senior member of her branch of the family, at the relatively young age of 78.

But this is really just a jumping off point for this post. I went over to see my mother today to see how she was doing. Talking about family got us to wondering where the book of the family genealogy was hidden. One of my mother's cousins had once traced the family history back a good long way. When we found the book, which we had been trying to find for years, we also discovered a treasure trove of old family documents and pictures. Mom had been looking for one of those pictures for years. The picture showed a group of fifty or so people gathered for the 50th wedding anniversary of Mother's mother's mother's parents. (Just to distinguish exactly which set of Mom's great-grandparents they were.) It had been taken in 1925. (This was not the oldest picture we found, not by a few decades.)

But I'm not here to bear witness to the vast changes that have taken place since 1925. No, I'm here to bear witness to the vast changes that have taken place from the year 1973. Among all the other treasures, I found a card with mementoes that my maternal grandmother had saved marking important occasions of my sister's life. Included in this cache I found a program from my sister's high school baccalaureate and commencement programs:

Baccalaureate Program

June 3, 1973 5:00 P.M.
First United Methodist
Church of Orlando

Mr. Warren Coker, Organist

"God of Grace and God of Glory" No. 470

The Reverend Lloyd E. Meyer
Metropolitan Baptist Church

Reading of Scripture
Genesis 32: 24-30

Pastoral Prayer

Special Music
Trojan Ensemble
Mr. Leslie G. Knepper, Director

Baccalaureate Address ----
"The Inescapable Struggle" The Reverend Gene Zimmerman
First United Methodist Church of Orlando

"Oh God Our Help in Ages Passed" No. 28

The Reverend Lloyd E. Meyer

Metropolitan Baptist Church



Flowers and decorations compliments of
Maynard Evans High School Parent Teachers Association

Commencement Program

June 8, 1973 8:00 P.M.
Orlando Municipal

(Audience please remain seated during the
Processional and Recessional)

Mr. Warren Coker, Organist

The Rev. Richard Wezeman
Orlando Christian Reformed Church

William Frangus, Principal

President’s Message
Samuel Mark Adkins

James D. Pendley

Wanda Marie Yucius

Special Music
Maynard Evans High School Mixed Chorus
Directed by Leslie F. Knepper

Presentation of Class
H. Dale Brushwood
Class Sponsor

Awarding of Diplomas
William Frangus, Principal
Ronn J. Schwenn, Curriculum Research Associate
H. Dale Brushwood, Class Sponsor

Alma Mater

The Rev. Richard Wezeman
Orlando Christian Reformed Church

Maynard Evans High School Band

All this happened at a public high school in 1973! I can’t imagine so much overt religious content during the graduation of my class, the class of 1986. (Yeah, I dropped out, but that would have been my class.) Somehow, the cultural climate changed more between the 1973 and 1986 than it had between 1973 and 1919, the year my grandmother graduated from high school.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Conversational Snippets

From Friday night:

Me [answering a dumb internet poll]: Am I an idealist?!
Wife: Yes.
Me: YES?!
Wife: Yes. Think about how upset you get when things don't go the way you think they should.
Me: But I'm a cynic....
Wife: I said you were an idealist, not an optimist.

From Saturday afternoon:

My wife and I both work M-F jobs. Today, we both went into work out of necessity. While I didn't see a single person in my building the four hours I was there, my wife kept running into co-workers. They kept telling her she shouldn't be there because it's Saturday, completely oblivious to the fact that since it was Saturday they shouldn't have been there either.

Wife: My co-workers are ludicrous!
Me: Could be worse. They could be Kanye West.

Yeah, that was awful. Hey, it was a long week, back off already!

Friday, February 10, 2006

On the Value of (My) Opinions

In reply to Reader's 10:20:45 comment about this post:

My comments have no merit because they are opinions, and all opinions are worthless. Considered judgement has merit, but opinions are meaningless. I don't have the background to make considered judgements about these topics. And the journalists sure as hell don't know their asses from a wire-tap. And my (worthless) opinion of our elected representatives is well known here, I think.

The lawyers, who might be expected to at least make passing reference to the law, are instead either referencing esoteric legal doctrine or stating flatly that Bush has committed crimes the likes of which haven't been seen since Stalin. There has been very little actual LEGAL analysis that I've seen.

Further, everyone is ignoring the fact that the laws in question may as well been written in the 19th century, as communication and computing technology have blown the concept of borders into little tiny pieces. Data flows in silent disregard to imaginary lines on the landscape. But no one really wants to talk about high density data transfers, international communications grids, etc., etc. That would actually be hard, and what's the fun in that when we can impeach a president instead?

I will note that the same people that are complaining that Bush hasn't been competent enough and isn't using technology to full advantage are the same ones complaining when he does try to use technology to full advantage. Hirsh's article was a fine example of that kind of despicable bullshit.

The biggest white elephant in the room is the whole notion of privacy. Privacy no longer exists, and the sooner people accept that the sooner we can decide how we're going to re-order our society to accomodate this new mode of being.

You think that what goes on behind drawn curtains and closed doors is private? Not if your neighbor is using high-powered infrared imaging equipment and decent imaging software. He'll catch what you're saying using some cheap laser spybeam tech to pick up the vibrations on your windows, with some more of that magical software to process it into intelligible speech. Of course, the whole time he'll be leaching off your wireless network and tracking your online data transactions - everything from electronic bill-pay to your latest blog post. Oh, and don't forget those laser beams. New programs are being developed that can decipher what you're typing by the rhythm of your key stokes.

I haven't mentioned the new scanning tech that will allow for cheap and easy brainscans that will easily detect when people are lying. Of course, there's an easy dodge here: alway tell lies.

All of this stuff already exists to greater and lesser degrees of sophistication. The refinement of all of this stuff is happening rapidly, and cannot be stopped short of a collapse of our civilization.

And it will be cheap. Big Brother is the least of our worries, now that three hundred million Little Brothers will also be watching. The big financial institutions will probably manage to stay ahead of the curve and keep financial transactions relatively secure, but everyone's personal lives will be fair game.

But instead of acknowledging this, the mice have voted to bell the cat. Endless talk about the right to privacy, and how much privacy we should give up for security, and on and on about privacy. We can vote for a law to demand the repeal of gravity, but we'll all still feel that old 32 ft/sec/sec tomorrow, and the Moon and Earth will still waltz their way around the Sun, which will obliviously continue to circle the galactic hub. All the while hearings will be held on Capitol Hill to determine who is responsible for failing to enforce the Gravitational Repeal Act of 2006. No doubt the Senators' hair plugs and pancake will be flawless. And my opinions will still be worth squat.