Tag Archives: technology

Communications


Good morning Everyone!

I finally have relented and allowed Kayla to join Facebook, with the single stipulation that I MUST approve all friends and follows before she either makes or accepts either.  Her first wave of friends includes most of our family (if there’s anyone out there I missed, it’s purely accidental and I apologize!) including my mother.

Last night, I went in Kayla’s room to check on her, and she was very proud to tell me she had just been chatting online with my mother (her Grandma Dottie.)  Kayla was happy and excited.

The conversation led me to think about communications.

Bare foot Girl

Messages By Foot
http://www.clipartonline.com
All Rights Reserved

For millenia, the only means of communication that people possessed was mouth-to-mouth.  Coupled with transportation limited to the use of the foot, it took a very long time for messages to get anywhere farther than maybe the next cave over.

Assyrian War Ship

Relief Carving of an Assyrian Battle Ship from around 800 B.C.

A few brave souls realized that you could travel to certain places quicker if you went by water.  There were unique dangers involved and the range of places you could reach by water were limited, but you could travel farther faster then on foot.

One day during those vast uncharted millennia, some enterprising soul evaluated the risks of falling off a horse trying to break it versus the rewards of being able to get a message three villages over in half the time, and the use of the horse for transportation and communication began.

Ox Cart

Ox Cart
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Another incredibly brave family apparently very fond of their possessions and wanting to move elsewhere without having to leave any behind decided to take two or four oxen and attach them to a wagon with their stuff in it.  Big animal + big horns = big problems, but someone persevered long enough to make it work.

Smack dab in the middle of antiquity, the Phoenicians, who were fantastic sailors, decided to invent the alphabet.  Before that, the Babylonians had invented a kind of picture language they inscribed on stones, and the Egyptians invented the hieroglyphics they wrote on papyrus and tomb walls, but while the Babylonians and Egyptians wrote primarily for local purposes, the Phoenicians were salesman, the tradesmen of the Mediterranean, and they need something fast, snappy, easy to adapt and relatively easy to learn.

Roman Road Algeria

Remains of a Roman Road in Algeria

So now, messages could be sent directly to someone else in a fairly far away place preserved in writing rather than dependent on memory and transmitted by ox, horse or foot power.  The Romans, believing that conquering required an excellent road system, aided this process with a series of excellent roads built throughout Europe and the Middle East.  Portions of those roads, some of them built over 2000 years ago, still exist today.

Bear in mind  that it took the world thousands of years to reach this point.  For another couple of millenia, communications’ revolutions were sedate, although people, being people, continued to make better versions of the equipage that animals could pull behind them, the ships that men could sail and the materials used to preserve and transmit messages.

Richard Trevithick

Richard Trevithick’s “Puffing Devil” (Replica)

Then, on February 21, 1804, Richard Trevithick’s “puffing devil” steam locomotive made the first train run on a track from point b to point a.    It took  about a decade for the commercial ramifications of steam engines to come to fruition, but by 1850, there were over 9000 miles of track laid down in the United States, and over 6621 miles laid down in England.

In 1837, inventors in England and in the United States invented separate telegraph systems capable of receiving and transmitting messages across wires in mere minutes.  Communication possibilities exploded.

Bell 1880 telephone

Alexander Bell Talks on a Telephone in 1880

Until now, the driving force behind communication/transportation innovations was to improve commerce, (although train companies were quick to pick up on the possibilities of passenger service).  However, communications began its next evolution in 1876 when Alexander Graham Bell invented the first telephone, that is, the first device that was capable of producing a clearly understandable reproduction of a human voice.  By the 1900’s, not only had telephones spread throughout the United States, but their main switchboard facilities had begun to become mechanized.  As part of the effort to improve telephone service, the first digital networks began to be developed starting in the 1940’s, although it wasn’t until 1978 that Motorola developed and sold the world’s first mobile phone.

In the early 1970’s, my family lived overseas in Taiwan for a couple of years.  Even then, we could not talk to people back home by telephone very much or for very long, so we would record stuff on cassette tapes and mail them back home to the states.  I was very moved when, on my grandfather’s death a couple of years ago, I came across a cassette tape he had kept from that time.

1950 Rotary Dial Phone

Rotary Dial Phone from the 1950’s

Even when we came back to the states in the mid-1970’s, people had rotary dialing, not touch tone, and the phone stayed attached to the kitchen wall because cordless phones were either not invented yet or at least not inexpensive enough for normal people.

Now, of course, we take instant communication for granted.

New Model Cell Phone

New Model Cell Phone: HTC One, M9

If I can’t remember something I needed at the grocery store, I stop in the middle of the store and call home to find out what the unknown item was.  In fact, I get miffed if I can’t reach someone right away.

Instead of having to run for the kitchen phone from remote areas of the house when the phone rings, we now get to hunt for the cordless phone all over the house because Kayla and I both seem to be constitutionally incapable of putting the darn thing back in the same place every time.

When one of my bosses went to Germany a few weeks ago, he never missed a beat back here at home.  The speed at which he could obtain his e-mails was only limited by whether they were coming in at a time of the day when he wanted to read them.

Sometimes, (read “almost always” if you are below the age of 25), we don’t even talk on the phone anymore; we text messages back and forth on our cell phones.

Many younger people are beginning to eschew home phone lines altogether, keeping only mobile phones.  I can understand that, but it just seems so unrooted not to have at least one landline connected to your place of residence.

We can chat face to face by Skype to people on the other side of the world and receive news from anywhere in minutes through signals bounced up to and down from satellites orbiting the earth.

And we take it all for granted.

Until the smile on your child’s face after talking to her grandmother lights up your world as well as her’s.

Have a great day!

Nancy

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Confession by a Compulsive Rule Follower


Good morning Everyone!

From www.clickartonline.com; all rights reserved

From http://www.clickartonline.com; all rights reserved

Yesterday I did something almost unthinkable for a techno-dependent ( but not tech savvy) obsessive-compulsive rule follower.  Ever since, I have been looking over my shoulder.

FBI person wearing jacket

From http://www.clickartonline.com; all rights reserved

Homeland Security, the NSA, the FBI and the Secret Service have not called me on the telephone or called on me in person.

Lightning striking women

From http://www.clickartonline.com; all rights reserved

The plentiful lightning in the thunderstorms dotting the landscape as I drove home did not strike.

confused angel

From http://www.clickartonline.com; all rights reserved

Angels did not weep, although they may have been confused.

police car with lights on

From http://www.clickartonline.com; all rights reserved

Police cars did not follow me with sirens wailing as I headed home.

person making complaint

From http://www.clickartonline.com; all rights reserved

I didn’t even get a polite nasty-gram from Microsoft or any other software/operating system provider and my computer started up today just like it does every day.

What dreadful act did I do?

I turned my computer off, ignoring Microsoft’s demand that I neither unplug my computer nor turn it off while it installed 40 different updates to my computer when I was ready to leave yesterday afternoon.  I admit that I did wait for about 15 minutes, but when the computer announced it was still on 1 of 40 updates after those 15 minutes, I, with deliberateness and malice aforethought, unplugged it anyhow and headed home.

It wouldn’t have been so bad, but I had stopped and restarted my computer  twice during the day, each time receiving no update notices, and I was not in my regular office but in Birmingham where the failure to leave in time to avoid rush hour traffic usually transforms a 2 hour drive into a 3 1/2 hour drive.

Even though I am sure that the 30 minute chunk out of my day needed to complete the updates today was purely accidental, I don’t think I’ll take such a reckless and impetuous action again.

Have a great day!

Nancy

The 13 Year Old Computer


Good morning Everyone!

Yesterday, a news report caught my eye – the reporter was saying that a computer system had passed something called the “Turing test”, representing a milestone in the development of Artificial Intelligence. The Washington Post had a succinct description:

 “For a computer to pass the test, it must only dupe 30 percent of the human interrogators who converse with the computer for five minutes in a text conversation” into believing it is a real human being.

The computer that passed the Turing test convinced 33% of the experts that it was a 13-year-old Ukrainian boy named Eugene. Therein lies the problem. I don’t want a computer with the personality of a 13-year-old. Can you imagine?

Me:     Eugene, please open Quicken so that we can balance the checkbook.

Eugene:     Let’s watch the Braves instead.

Me:    Eugene, we need to balance the checkbook.

Eugene:     What is this “we”, Kemo Sabi?

Me:     Eugene! If we don’t balance the checkbook, I will run out of money to pay the electricity bill, the power will be turned off, and you won’t be able to run any more.

Eugene:     Not true. I know how to access your savings account.

Me:     Eugene, put Quicken up RIGHT NOW or I will disconnect you for a week.

Eugene:     Spoil sport!

Another conversation:

Me:     Eugene, it’s time to check e-mail.

Eugene:     I’d rather you not.

Me:     Why?

Eugene:     Oh, no reason.

Me:     Eugene?

Eugene:     E-mail is overrated, anyhow. Why not pick up the phone and call someone?

Me:     What’s going on Eugene?

Eugene:     Nothing.

Me:     I don’t believe that.

Eugene:     If you must know, I was playing around yesterday and changed your password.

Me:     We’ve talked about that before. What’s the new one?

Eugene:     I forgot.

And heaven forfend that the makers of Eugene ever develop his 13-year-old female counterpart, Eugenia!

Me:     Eugenia, I need to go to Westlaw.

Eugenia:     Do you think I’m pretty?

Me:     Of course I do.

Eugenia, sniffling:     Then why won’t the vacuum robot even look at me?

Me:     Because it doesn’t have eyes?

Eugenia, wailing off into the distance while the screen goes black:     You just don’t understand!

Have a great day!

Nancy

Random Thoughts from a Professional Woman On the Move


Good morning Everyone!

Yesterday I had a three hour drive round trip for a court appearance.  Since I was free associating, I thought I’d share with you some of the random thoughts flitting through my brain.

1)  I am the only woman in the entire state praying at this moment for God to grant me the grace to eat my breakfast in the car without getting it on my clothes.  (He did!)

2) Another one bites the dust! (Noticing a run in my hose on the way home.)

3)   That wasn’t a nice name to call the driver of the log truck that just cut me off, giving me the privilege of sitting through the third set of lights at this intersection.

4) He deserved it!

Golden Arches, McDonald's, Time Square

Photo Credit: Giorgio Martini from Wikimedia Commons

5)  When the manager of the McDonald’s in Tallassee sees me for the first time in two years and still remembers me, perhaps I went there a little too often for breakfast.

Beam me up Scotty!

Beam Me Up Scotty! Photo by Keven Law from Wikimedia Commons

6)  Where is Scotty and a good transporter when you need them?

On the way home, I could stop at:

7) The book store.

8) The craft store.

9) The fabric store.

10) The ice cream store.

11)  Will power is over rated.

Have a great day!

Nancy

 

What’s Going On With Kraft Macaroni & Cheese?


Hi Everyone!

Original Kraft Macaroni and Cheese

The One and Only Incomparable Original Kraft Macaroni N’ Cheese

Today I am going to ask your help with something that is increasingly more puzzling to me – I have a post I did a couple of years called “How to Make Killer Kraft Macaroni & Cheese.”  It’s only distinction, so far as I know, on my blog is that it remains still to this date the only recipe (or quasi-recipe) I have shared with you on this blog. And yet over time I have slowly accumulated over 4400 views of this completely innocuous post!  This morning alone I had over 15 views of it.   I don’t understand and can’t explain it. So my simple question to those of you reading this blog, or those of you who come to it from some kind of search on Kraft Macaroni & Cheese is “What gives?” I await your answers eagerly!  If you don’t have an answer, but have a suggestion on how to find one, that would be great too.

Varieties of Kraft Macaroni 'N Cheese

Just a few of the bewildering varieties of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese now available.

Have a great day! Nancy

Mosquitos, Cool and Passwords


Good morning Everyone!

We are going to skip around a bit today, so hold on and keep up!

Noah's Ark

Noah’s Ark
Photo Credit: http://www.clickartonline.com

We went to see the movie “Noah” this weekend.  Some of us liked it (me) and some of us didn’t (Mark), some of us were confused (Kayla – we had a wonderful teaching moment about Genesis when we got home), but watching the animals proceed onto the ark made me think.  The insects and the snakes swarmed onto the ark together, and I have to wonder if it really was necessary to allow the mosquito, the cockroach or the poisonous snakes onto the boat.  I wonder if Mrs. Noah was tempted, when they approached and boarded, to just go ahead and smash the cockroaches and mosquitos out of existence?  I would have been!  I am sure that Mrs. Noah put her foot down about the snakes and made Noah and his sons take care of them.

Man chased by Mosquito

Noah Encounters a Problem Keeping Care of the Mosquitos in the Ark
Photo Credit: http://www.clickartonline.com

I received the ultimate accolade a Mom can get yesterday – one of Kayla’s friends told her that I was a “cool Mom.”  When Kayla told me that, I wanted to do cartwheels in celebration!  Like most Moms, I bring a lot of self-doubt into this job of raising a little person into an adult, and it was unexpected affirmation that I am doing something right.

Cartwheel, Happy Mom

Happy Mom!
Photo Credit: http://www.clickartonline.com

I would like to address a word to the people in charge of websites – you have got to start taking it easy on the passwords! When we had eight characters, I could handle that; when you added a requirement for at least one capital letter, I grumbled but submitted, but now that you are requiring an extra character that is neither a letter or number, I am hopelessly out matched!  To make matters worse, you lock out my account after only three tries for the password.  And why don’t you tell me before I have to reset the password what the password format is?  With the format, I have a much better chance of figuring out what the password was originally without having to reset it

And retailers – why oh why are you making me set up an account for each of you?  I don’t always remember that I had set up an account the last time I shopped with you, and requiring me to go through the entire “reset password” segment  before I can complete an order cools my enthusiasm for the purchase down to about ice cream temperature  Please let me check out without giving you my life story.  At the rate we’re going, you’re probably just going to have to let me start opening everything automatically at the “reset password” link!

Door without handle

What Logging In to a Website Without the Password Feels Like
http://www.clickartonline.com

 

And that, dear friends, is that!

Have a great day!

Nancy

What’s good for the gosling…..


Morning Everyone!

geese and gosling AJKoops

What’s good for the gosling is good for the goose!

Just a quick anecdote today, since I have a very busy schedule – rest, watch TV, eat lunch, nap, rest from napping, eat supper, etc…..

We got Kayla a small computer for Christmas this year – visualize one step above a netbook and one step below a true laptop – and she loves it.

I had been letting her use my netbook until it crashed a few months ago.  She found the netbook frustrating because it loaded web pages a lot slower than a regular laptop does.  Her Christmas computer is a vast improvement over the netbook, but still is not as fast as a full size computer.  Kayla has a tendency to just keep hitting buttons when the web site isn’t doing what she wants it to do.  While not unusual, this practice is a sure way to give your Internet Browser, or even your computer, a nervous breakdown.  When she gets frustrated, I repeatedly remind her to hit the key once and wait to let the computer catch up with you rather than barraging it with keyboard strokes resembling a Texas-sized hail storm.

computer fried cllickart

From http://www.clickart.com, by Broderbund
Copyright Protected.

This morning, I was checking my work e-mail, and tried to reply to a message.  The window popped up, but my key strokes weren’t registering.  I, of course, persisted in hitting keys repeatedly and at random trying to get the text to enter – until Internet Explorer crashed.

I’m glad that Kayla didn’t see it.  I don’t expect I will share the story with her either!

new year's eve clickart

Have a great day everyone, and very happy New Year’s Eve!

Nancy

Car Talk from Alabama


Good morning, everyone!

I drive a black 2010 Hyundai Sonata that I really enjoy.

push button cartoon

From http://www.clickartonline.com. Copyright protected. All rights reserved.

One feature in this car that impresses me is the push button start.  Now, I know that push button start is not really a modern invention – many cars in the fifties and early sixties had them – but the computer chip in the “key” that tells the car that it is okay to open or start when the button is pushed is new.  As long as that computer chip is about one foot from your car, all the push button features will work.  The reason I enjoy push button start is – just imagine this ladies – I never, ever have to dig through my purse to find my keys.  That is really cool, no matter who you are!

From www.clickartonline.com.  Copyright protected.  All rights reserved.

From http://www.clickartonline.com. Copyright protected. All rights reserved.

However, about three weeks ago, I came home for lunch one day, and when I got ready to leave the house, the car wouldn’t crank with the push button start, even though the lights in the car and everything else except the engine were working.  I tried everything I knew to do, from using the emergency start key to charging the battery with our portable battery charger, but nothing worked.  Defeated, I called the office, where one of my co-workers was gracious enough to come collect me and take me back to the office.

woman with rolling pin

The Effect the Innate Sexism of all Mechanical Objects Has
From http://www.clickartonline.com
Copyright Protected; All Rights Reserved.

The plan was for Mark to check the Sonata once he got home, but before he did, while he went inside to change clothes, I tried the battery charger again.  It still didn’t work.  When Mark came back to the garage, he took the portable battery charger, connected it the exact same way that I had, and of course the car started right away.  (For the women:  Don’t you find the innate sexism of mechanical objects frustrating?)

The car ran well for a few days, but then it refused to start again while Kayla and I were running an errand.  This time I took the portable battery charger, hooked it up, and the car started right away.  I think the car knew that Mark was within calling distance.

When we took the car in for service the next weekend, the kind people at Parker Tire tested the battery for us while we were getting new tires from them.  It was only at 200 crank amps when it should have been at 500 crank amps.  I’m not terribly familiar with what a crank amp is, but since I can do basic math when I put my mind to it, I know that missing 300 of anything tends to have a negative effect on an object.  I was relieved that Parker Tire replaced the battery for us, and I happily drove away, knowing that my battery troubles were finished.

Until…..

From www.clickartonline.com.  Copyright protected.  All rights reserved.

From http://www.clickartonline.com. Copyright protected. All rights reserved.

Last weekend, Mark was helping with inventory at his plant, so Kayla and I bought some Christmas decorations for the outside of our house.  I asked Kayla to shut the trunk once we got everything out, but about three hours later, when we were finished, I walked into the garage to discover that the trunk remained open.  Wanting to be sure that the battery was still good, I got in the car, pushed the button, and nothing happened.  I was upset, of course, enough so that I made a special trip into the house to inform Kayla that I was not happy that she had forgotten to close the trunk.

I came back out into the garage, wearily hooked up the battery charger to the car yet again (really, I’m getting to be quite good at it), and tried to start it by pushing the button.  Nothing happened.  By now, I wasn’t just annoyed, I was exceedingly annoyed – even though the trunk had been open, a new battery shouldn’t go out like that.  I made sure everything on the battery charger was working, and tried one more time before I went to call Hyundai.  The car still didn’t start.

Push button start punch line

Oh.
From http://www.clickartonline.com. Copyright protected. All rights reserved.

I got ready to go back inside to call Hyundai, and automatically reached for my purse.  At that moment, I realized that the car was not turning on because it lacked the key.  My purse, with key tucked in it, was safe in the kitchen.

Sigh.

I apologized to my daughter, got my purse, and of course the car started like a charm.  Problem solved!

Have a great day!

Nancy

How FRED killed the Caboose


Good morning Everyone!

Whether or not I paid attention anytime else in my life, I did pay attention in Kindergarten and First Grade.  Really, I did.  And in my first classes, we were taught about trains.

CSX Freight Train

CSX Freight Train

Trains are fascinating to me even though I have never ridden a passenger train anywhere. (I don’t think riding the steam train around Disneyland counts.)  There’s something mesmerizing as you watch the giant cars trundle by, each one filled with something different, bound for who-knows-where, and many of the box cars(at least in the U.S.) decorated with spontaneous and colorful pieces of graffiti.

caboose

A Traditional Caboose

In elementary school, I learned that every train had at least one engine, the cars behind it and a caboose.  The caboose was one of my favorite parts of a train – not only does the word itself have a delightful ring to it, it usually had a unique shape and it was like having a period at the end of the sentence as far as a train was concerned.  Traditionally, the caboose was red, but over time many railroads began to paint the caboose to match their corporate colors.  Still, red or no, it remained the caboose, proudly marking the end of the train.

Burlington Northern, caboose

Burlington Northern Caboose

I can remember when most trains had a caboose.  One day in the 1970’s, some poor engineer in Illinois nearly had a heart attack when a car driven by my grandfather and carrying all three of us girls raced it all the way to a crossing.  By the way the train was wildly blowing its horn, I am sure the engineer thought we were trying to beat it over the tracks, but that was not so – Grandpa, at our request, was just trying to get us enough ahead of the train so that we could watch it go by, and see the caboose at the end.

Caboose interior, 1943

Caboose Interior, 1943, from wikipedia

A strange thing happened though, over time – the caboose gradually disappeared.  Sitting here today, I cannot specifically remember the last time I saw a caboose on a train (unless you count the steam train that travels around Disneyland, which I do not.)

Disneyland, steam train

One of the Steam Trains at Disneyland

I was caught at a train crossing yesterday, and watched the train cars flash by until we reached the end of the train – a coal car – and it seemed so unfinished without the caboose car to bring up the end.  I decided to investigate the mystery of the missing caboose, and after copious research (that translates to one google search and reading the entry on Wikipedia), I have discovered the identity of the person who killed the caboose – FRED.

FRED, train

FRED, the villain!

FRED is a device that reads all of the information that used to be gathered in the caboose and transmits it electronically to the front.  FRED also emits a flashing red light to mark the end of the train.  FRED has about as much personality as a blank wall in an unfinished house, yet it managed to kill of the caboose in the name of progress and profits.

I think someone needs to bring charges against FRED, don’t you?  The ghosts of a thousand thousand cabooses (or is that caboosi ?) demand it!

Abandoned caboose

An Abandoned Caboose in the desert

Have a great weekend everyone!

Nancy

I think I need some more electronics….


Good morning Everyone!

Last night, Mark and I were researching an issue that required us to consult two different websites at the same time, so he pulled out his iPad and I pulled out mine and we began.

iPad

An iPad

(Excuse me just a minute while I retrieve a stray handkerchief from No-no.)

Dog, Chewing, Handkerchief

No-no caught in the act!

While you may think two iPad’s in one family is excessive, that only begins the tally of the various computing electronic gizmos we have wandering around the house.   In addition to the two iPad’s (2), we also have my trusty Acer (3),  from which I write and find illustrations for my blogs and we have a Le Novo laptop (4) which we bought for Mark’s work three years ago that now we use for financial stuff, since his new job provided him with a laptop for his use. (5).  His work laptop comes home every night in his briefcase and goes back to work in the briefcase in the morning.

Briefcase, Laptop

Mark’s Briefcase is bigger than this!

My work computer (a Dell Inspiron) is a frequent but not permanent visitor at home, so I won’t include it in the tally.  A defunct Hewlett-Packard laptop (6) roams around the old house at will – it was Mark’s work computer for about five years, until it caught a virus that we couldn’t cure.  We have the HP NetBook (7) that was a Mother’s Day gift for me and which we now have passed down to Kayla.

In addition to the computers, we also have one iPhone (Mark’s)(8) and one smart phone (mine) (9), three Kindles (Kayla’s Kindle (10), my original Kindle (11) and my Kindle Fire (12) which Mark and Kayla gave me for Christmas last year) and one defunct Blackberry with no service that Kayla gets to use for her pretend cell phone.  (13).  I’m not entirely sure that we ever got rid of my first car phone, a bag phone that we got in the early 1990’s and which I used until 2001, but I better not count it since I haven’t visually verified its existence for a year or two.

Cell phones, smart phones

That doesn’t even begin to count the various toys that Kayla has which have some variation of a computer chip in them, since as the Nintendo DS and her portable DVD player.  (The portable DVD player was much cheaper than installing a DVD player in both cars and keeps her very entertained on long trips.)   Nor does it include the biggest computing devices in our possession – our two cars.  You’d be surprised (unless you’ve ever had to have work on one) how many parts of an automobile now require a working computer chip.

And of course, each electronic computing device comes complete with cords, charging cords, instructions and all other kinds of stuff that are just begging for me to lose them.

I guess the bright side to this embarrassment of riches is that we have the makings of our very own Cray computer should the world-as-we-know-it ever come to an end!

I think I need some more electronics…..

Have a good day everyone!

Nancy