Saturday, January 23, 2010

Blog #124: Our Worst Nightmare

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Memories of a Sleepless Night

Monday night/Tuesday morning was virtually sleepless. My recently injured left rib cage ached from the positions I was forced to lie in; I must spend the second half of every night lying on my left side so that my good ear is up and able to hear my alarm as it goes off at 6 am. However, for whatever reason, after getting up at 3:45 for a bladder drain, sleep would not return. My mind was churning, my imagination was hosing me.

Though wide awake every minute I managed to have an excruciating nightmare. Republicans were on the eve of winning Ted Kennedy’s long held Senate seat, and thereby poised to kill, or seriously maim, his lifelong project, national health care reform. Was this remotely possible? On the eve of the first anniversary of President Obama’s game changing election to the presidency of the United States, has the country lost both its faith and its mind?

Is the faith of the people of the United States in general, and the people of Massachusetts in particular, so wafer thin that it could be torn into shreds at the marching of a few kooks, and the mouthings of a Republican leadership which continues to carp at every Obama proposal as if they see that as the only way they can return themselves to power?

Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first president I remember while growing up in the 1930’s. And he had the unique ability to wrap the truth up in the most compelling oratory. And as he closed the nation’s banks in order to save them, he explained his actions with a clarity no president has since matched: “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself!”

Fear. The Republicans play on the American voters fears as Yo Yo Ma brings life to his cello performances. Unfortunately, once again their strategy seems to be working. They claim the Democrats shut them out of the legislative process, but in truth after submitting numerous amendments themselves, not a Republican would cross over the line and vote for the Democrats health care. They kept saying untruths like “death panels,” too expensive, a government take over, and on and on as they continually, and in lock step, kept up their chant of “No!”

Finally, I got up and turned on msnbc and kept the volume low but hearable, and somehow I managed to last in a horizontal position until 5:30, a half hour before my alarm was set to go off, at which time I threw in the towel and got up and began my morning ablutions.

It was a new day, but Morning Joe offered little or no hope along with its Starbucks. It wasn’t yet daylight, but daylight is surely hours away. Are my night’s fears and musings going to rule the day, or were those rantings merely the workings of a feverish mind? Only the day’s Massachusetts voting will tell for sure. But surely an outcome such as this could only happen in nightmares? In twelve hours we shall know for sure.§

Invitation of the Week

Is there a tablet in Apple’s future? What other tech miracles is Steve Jobs likely to announce at next Wednesday’s event? If you were among the elite in the world of tech writers and product reviewers, you might have received the above invitation in your email box on Monday. Dwight Silverman, our Houston tech guru, did and is planning to attend the event. For those of us mere mortals, we will have to view it on Apple’s website.§

And from the Wall Street Journal comes Apple tablet bombshells:

Reporters Yukari Iwatani Kane and Ethan Smith cited numerous sources familiar with the tablet in revealing that Apple intends to focus its tablet on providing content from multiple "old media" business sources, including textbooks, newspapers and television. Apple has reportedly pitched the tablet as a device that can be shared amongst family members and used for reading news and checking e-mail.

That sharing element, one person said, has been a major focus for Apple in creating the user interface for the device. Interaction with the hardware will be in such a manner that it is "intuitive to share."

"The person said that Apple has experimented with the ability to leave virtual sticky notes on the device and for the gadget to automatically recognize individuals via a built-in camera," the report said. "It's unclear whether these features will be included at launch."

More speculation may be found here

The mobile phone some call “the Jesus phone.”

“There’s an App for That!”

In what has to be one of the truly feel good stories to come out of the devastation that is earthquake ridden Haiti, Brian X. Chen writing in Wired’s Gadget Lab column, tells the story of U. S. filmmaker Dan Wooley who was in Haiti shooting a documentary about the impact of poverty on the island when the earthquake struck.

“I just saw the walls rippling and just explosive sounds all around me,” said Woolley, recounting the earthquake to MSNBC. “It all happened incredibly fast. David yelled out, ‘It’s an earthquake,’ and we both lunged and everything turned dark.”

He could have died, but he ultimately survived thanks to an iPhone app which taught him how to treat his wounds.

After being crushed by a pile of rubble, Woolley used his digital SLR to illuminate his surroundings and snap photos of the wreckage in search of a safe place to dwell. He took refuge in an elevator shaft, where he followed instructions from an iPhone first-aid app to fashion a bandage and tourniquet for his leg and to stop the bleeding from his head wound, according to an MSNBC story.

The app even warned Woolley not to fall asleep if he felt he was going into shock, so he set his cellphone’s alarm clock to go off every 20 minutes. Sixty-five hours later, a French rescue team saved him.

For more on the story go here

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Albuquerque, New Mexico police photo circa 1977

Bill Gates, Yes That One, is on Twitter

By Alex Wilhelm on January 20, 2010: Bill Gates has joined Twitter and is tweeting away using the web interface. Twitter employee @caroline has confirmed this.

Turns out Bill Gates' attention-getting debut on Twitter may be just the prelude. The Microsoft chairman and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation co-chair today is launching a new site, dubbed The Gates Notes, where he'll be writing about what's on his mind, posting information from his trips, and sharing excerpts from his exchanges with experts and leaders in areas including science, energy, philanthropy and other global issues.

And so the more dedicated followers of the former Microsoft CEO among you would do well to direct themselves to Todd Bishop’s Tech Flash article reporting on Gates’ new website. Complete details may be found here!

And the Gates’ introductory page may be found here

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More Thoughts on the State of the Nation

Have you noticed recently, that some days it just doesn’t pay to get out of bed? What with the ongoing disaster in Haiti, and the Senate election in Massachusetts, this morning was certainly one of those days. If it didn’t cause so much pain to have to lie a certain way, I would be up at all hours.

Where has the nation’s patience gone? In what has to be a record breaking free fall, the Democrat’s lost Ted Kennedy’s long held Senate Seat in Massachusetts to a man ashamed to even call himself a Republican. As unbelievable as that sounds, that seems to be what is happening Wednesday morning as we continue this week’s blog

Will it kill health care reform? Probably it will do a lot more than that, it should effectively tie President Obama’s hands in whatever matter he will try to attend to, since he will have lost that precious 60 vote majority in the Senate. Is this insane? In the famous words of personable ex-politician from Alaska, “you betcha!”

Whatever happened to the phrase “majority rules?” Well, it does rule in many places, but not in the United States Senate. 60 votes is required to make a prospective bill “filibuster” proof, and thereby have it sail through the Senate, and votes number 58, 59 and 60 are all powerful as they can hold the most worthy piece of legislation hostage until demands are met. And now that the Democrats have lost that crucial 60th vote, they are, in the words of a gentler Bush, “in deep doodoo.”

How could this have happened? Well, the national patience is obviously set to near zero, and when the Obama fixes to the economy have not instantly caused unemployment go away, people, and particularly the nation’s independent voters seem to have deserted the ship of state like rats on a sinking ship. Of course, the Republicans are behind this, for as one man they have bitterly rejected each and every Obama proposal, which of course has put an end to Obama pre-election promises to be inclusive of Republican input. Republicans don’t like being out of power, and for reasons of their own, they have decided that the swiftest way for them to return to power would be to trash Obama’s Democratic agenda.

Never mind the Bush years and the fact that it was the Republican Party which ran up those monumental deficits after Bill Clinton had left the nation with surpluses. Republicans say: “That was then, this is now,” and so they refuse the Democrats the money to enable them to fix what Republicans have broken. It would serve them right for their strategy to work and put them back in power in 2012. But god help the country if that happens, as Republicans serve only the interests of the rich and well connected, they won’t spend a dime to fix whatever is broken that affects the rest of us. And the country is going to be in really bad shape if the Republican strategy ends up putting them back in power in 2012.§

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Apple and Google; Is the Romance Gone?

At the time of the iPhone introduction Apple and Google were in a lover’s tango. Google CEO Eric Schmidt was on Apple’s board of directors, and their companies were standing together against their mutual nemeses, Microsoft.

Funny how time and competition can cut into the most intense of relationships. These days Google has its own mobile operating system (Android) and a mobile phone of its design (Nexus One), both of which are in direct competition to Apple’s iPhone. And according to rumor Apple is in negotiations with Microsoft to make Bing the default Safari search engine.§

An Email to Make My Day

One of the perks of writing this blog and telling of my remembrances of the Children’s camps I worked for over the years, has been in the emails I have gotten from former campers and counselors I once knew. For instance, this appeared in my email box the other day:

Brandon, Michael to me: Do you remember driving to Killooleet in the early sixties, with the Brandon’s (Mom-Elizabeth, daughter-Anne and me, son Michael (Tex).

Hope the years have been kind to you. The ripple effects of your talking to my mom about camp have been life long, 5 summers at camp and another year as a kitchen aide. Went on to school at Colorado Rocky Mt School outside of Aspen. Ended with a 30 year career as a child psychologist.

You never know the extent of folks who cross our paths. I’m glad you crossed ours.

All the best, Michael Brandon, Ph.D.

District Psychologist-Pearland I.S.D., Child-Clinical Psychologist, Licensed, Specialist in School Psychology & Registrant - the National Register of Health Service Providers in Psychology

Wow. Most impressive. I wrote Michael back that, yes, I did indeed remember that trip. As I remember, I had been working with his mother in Houston on some project related to her folk collection, probably putting materials on tape. She had told me that she was scheduled to attend some kind of seminar that summer in Middlebury, Vt., and she didn’t know what to do with her kids. Of course, being the always loyal camp counselor, I suggested she enroll them at Killooleet, which was just a few miles away at Hancock, Vt. She did, and the four of us drove up to camp that summer in her automobile.

I never knew how their camp adventures had turned out until I got Michael’s email a few days ago. It had obviously worked out well for him. Five summers at camp, and one more as a kitchen aide. And being in a children’s camp environment must have weighed heavily in his career selection, as he seems to have carved himself a long and successful career in Child Psychology. It is the occasional email like this one that makes it worthwhile clearing the clutter in your email box, as you check it daily.§

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A Strange, Twisted Environment

What a strange, twisted environment we are living in these days. On the one hand we are among the most educated and knowledgable people on the planet, but which ever of the children if found guity of initiating the enthusiastic kiss we published a couple of weeks ago (which we reprint above) would have likely been prosecuted (as a child molester?) in certain states of our union. As a five year old boy in Florida was to discover a couple of years ago.

And another problem this generation seems to have invented for itself is sending nude photos of themselves to their friends via cellphones. Teenagers are sometimes daring, and occasionally exhibitionistic. And there’s even a name for this newest of pastimes, it is known as Sex-ting.

And some district attorneys are attempting to prosecute these violations of the public decorum as child pornography, which in these peculiar times has dreadful connotations and terribly long prison sentences. Plus it leaves the child with the label sex offender permanently affixed to his resume.

We are a complex, many shaded society. We are made up of a diverse people whose various cultures reflect many points of view. Sure, there are people offended by the sight of their own, and/or the opposite sex unclothed. That’s why nudity is frowned upon, where its not downright prohibited, in public. But much of our society would not share such a harsh view. The nude body, and particularly the nude female body, has epitomized beauty in art throughout the ages.

I was always encouraging skinny dipping in my camp days, because I felt it was both a natural state to be in and fun way to swim. And I can honestly tell you that you could leaf through the history of mankind from our days in caves and trees to our modern, man made air conditioned environment, without finding one case of a child of either sex who was ever corrupted by the sight of the opposite sex naked. The current notion that simply the sight of the opposite sex bare can be corrupting is patently absurd. I mean really? We are all made equal, and made one way or the other.

Usually, our trip skinny dips were at twilight or later, with a much needed bar of Ivory soap handy to remove the day’s crud from our bodies. But if there was a need, like after a hot, dusty, sweaty climb, skinny dipping in broad daylight was the order of the day.

On trips which I was on no child was ever encouraged to go naked. Most everyone was more than eager. And because we felt that shame should have no part of any reticence on their part, if they didn’t want to go in they were free to watch as the others freely swam and played around.

And usually at some point when they saw how much fun the others were having, their own inhibitions would unravel and they would end up joining the party. And afterwards it was usually the reluctant ones who were the most vocal in thanking us for the activity.

Why this sudden turn to punish today’s Sex-ting teens as pornographers? If you think it is a logical charge then perhaps you should consider running as a district attorney in your area. But to much of our population, nudity is no big deal, and such a skewered charge in which a conviction will send a teen to prison and label him a sex offender for life, is to me at the very least a gigantic pile of hurt and overkill.

And so those prosecutors who would attempt to prosecute some teen agers found guilty of sex-ting, on child pornography charges remains to us an unexplainable anomaly. "Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of prosecutors?" They are a breed apart. Obviously they see nudity as cardinal sin. And prosecutors are encouraged from babyhood to seek the maximum possible sentence in all cases.

And so what if a conviction will ruin a child’s life before it has had a chance to flower? Prosecutor types would come on with all kinds of justifications for the ruining of a child’s life. Among their favorites, “to set an example for others.” For a more thorough look into the way prosecutors think we would refer you to the Nancy Grace show, on Headline News. A clearer look into the mindset of the breed you are not likely to see anytime soon.

Public perceptions of public nudity vary greatly throughout the world. Europeans look upon American nudity taboos as quaint at best, as topless and even nude beaches are frequently sprinkled throughout tropical Europe. And in Japan and other Asian countries nudity in public baths is quite common.

In these United States we seem to be experts at adopting the more extremes of the world’s public’s attitude towards nudity. We should relax and treat phenomenon like sex-ting as yet another harmless stage that an occasional teenager will pass through on his/her way to maturity, one which he/she will subsequently grow out of. It is certainly not the breach in the dam that will bring down our American way of life if it is not prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.§

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And as we throttle down this week’s Little Eddy Blog we would like to take note of that professional basketball team that most resembles the children’s story, The Little Engine That Could. The Houston Rockets began the 2009-2010 season without superstars Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady, and with TNT analyst Charles Barkley declaring them the worst team in the west with no chance of making the playoffs. But they have defied such predictions of doom with a record that at this time gives them 24-18 wins and puts them smack into the playoff race. Their margin of error is razor thin, and their success is predicated on none of the present roster being hurt for the remainder of the year.

But with guards Aaron Brooks and Kyle Lowry playing far above expectations, along with guard Trevor Ariza, and with Shane Battier’s relentless defense, and Chuck Hayes’ as undersized but effective center position, and the off the bench help from deservedly sixth man of the year Carl Landry, plus benchmates Chase Budinger and David Anderson, well, you have a team that’s way ahead of expectations. And one that is exciting as hell to follow night after night. Who knows where they will end up by the end of the season? It’s not the goal, but the journey to reach that goal that is exciting to watch. And it continually amazes me how their struggles, and their successes, affect those of us who root for them. Go Rockets!§

And so this week’s Little Eddy blog runs its course, and at any moment is likely to begin spilling over the edges of your monitor. Our health is improving, and our computer has been behaving itself, and what with the added time we have had to polish and embellish this week's blog, we have, we think, come up with a Little Eddy blog that is more fleshed out than our two more recent ones.

Doing our blog gets us out of bed in the morning, and keeps us out of mischief during the day. We hope you will surf your way back again anytime next week after our Saturday morning upload to Google, when at around 8 o’clock Central Standard time we put our latest rambling online. See you then. Bye, bye.

The Real Little Eddy §

Blog #124: Our Worst Nightmare

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