Archive for March, 2017

What Is Going On?

Like all other Americans, I am facing an unknown in our recently elected Federal government. Departments which have represented us, such as The State Department, seem to sitting on their hands. Is this the will of the President, or of some of his henchmen? He is spending his time in the White House alone, going to Florida on the weekends (at public expense). His wife and youngest son live in New York city while older children drop by the White House. The morning news says one daughter is coming to spend more time with him in the White House.  All these people have to be protected by the Secret Service in their comings and goings.  Naturally, this will cost more money to provide and the SS has already filed a special request.

He gets up early and listens to conservative news, (which often is more rumor than news) then dashes off negative comments about what people have done or are supposed to have done. He has earlier accused his predecessor in office of having been behind spreading malicious information about him. Not one of his cabinet or administrative (FBI) officers agree with this charge. And, there are similar witless charges.

Republicans in Congress,encouraged by the president. moved to get rid of the “Obama” welfare give away, except they came up against the millions of lower income constituents in their districts who benefit from this expenditure. Unable to put together a majority, the leadership had to put this on a back burner.  And, after refusing to consider (for how many months?) the earlier nominee who was presented by the Democrats for Supreme Court Justice, they are now leading the questioning of one who is “neutral”.

I have been here since FDR’s first term. Many different men have been president, but there has never been one this unprepared. Unfortunately, this is not the nuttiest Congress I have ever seen, though the refusal to get rid of “Obama Care” offers hope that the Nuts are not completely in charge.

I could go on, but I suspect this is just the beginning. What will this country be like after four years?

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What’s New (Maybe)

Every once in a while I look at the list of books that I have read and am surprised at the number from Amazon, or that have come from the library after coming to my attention from Amazon. Many are very interesting and some are not. The uninteresting I don’t have to keep. The library books are free and I can return those that turn out to be not what I am interested in.

For example, The Man Who Broke Napoleon’s Codes, is a relatively recent examination of how the British Duke of Wellington in his early 19th C campaign against the French in Portugal and Spain supported his intelligence officer in cracking the new message code. His officer had already deciphered the previous code, an act that let Wellington know what the French were supposed to do, sometimes before they knew. The book is full of action and suspense: just my type. Then, there is Thief of Time by Tony Hillerman. These fictional stories take place on the Navajo reservation and the principal character is a young Navajo policeman. The stories have told me much about life on the Navajo reservation.

On the other hand, there is The Red Knight of Germany:The Story of Baron von Richthofen. He was THE fighter plane ace of WWI, shooting down more planes than any pilot on either side. The book was published in 1930, giving it’s author time to explore every air battle and every victim of Richthofen. Not quite half way through it came to me that describing most air battles, places of crash for all of his victims, and their names was all the book was about. I’m not sure even a German could stick through all of that.

And, now, there is The Sea & Civilization, foisted on me by a very good friend. It is 600 pages of densely packed information on the development of the world from the time when we can first identify people moving from one place to another by sea. It is well written, very interesting and long. After about two months I have read 124 pages.

Thank goodness for the library and Amazon. They should keep me interested and involved until my departure.

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Sorry about this

I became so interested in the basketball playoffs that I forgot a blog.  Next week.

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Changing Human Behavior

In my last essay, I finished by wondering what’s next. This question is bothering/concerning a lot of people. In my case, I have been struggling with the changes in recorded music for several years. My wife and I began with 331/3 records which played up to 45 minutes of music on two sides. This was successor to the 78 rpm records that played about 4 minutes per side. Then, the 331/3 record was succeeded by compact cassette tape with about the same amount of time. Tape was succeeded by compact discs with up to 80 minutes of recorded time. All of these media still work, but have mostly been replaced by digital format, which is even less understandable to me than the previous media. Unlike automobiles, recording music has moved through completely different formats and playing machines.

Making automobiles that don’t need human control for some of their actions is simply one aspect of changing interaction between machines and humans. What is making this possible is computer programming which is coming closer to recognizing a particular human voice as a control of technology. And, driving new autos involves using computerized help. Like automobiles, playing recorded music can now be managed by computer. But, unlike automobiles, recorded music is no longer played by machines devoted directly to it.

Computers, like the first one I used with a colleague at GW, were of large, standup size and physically connected to several working stations. You had to develop a program to use it and then there was not much the uninitiated could do with it (and this was in the mid 1980s). Developers gave us a continuing array of smaller and more capable machines. With the development of the internet, computers moved on to the knowledge machines we now use.

However, development is not over. Voice operated computer service is being developed. It is in a relatively primitive stage, but its hands free, voice operated system of communication continues the trend of less physical action in our daily lives. Change increases as one builds on another, and poses the question about how humans will participate in our social and economic life. (Just watch people using cell phones everywhere to realize how we are reducing physical human interaction.)

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