Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Whole New Vocabulary

Language evolves. It’s that simple. Despite my disdain for misuse of the English language, I know that. But think about the whole new vocabulary we’ve created through this digital revolution.

Let’s start with the obvious: Google. In case you didn’t know, besides being the premier search engine, it’s a term for ten to the one-hundredth power; that is: a ten with a hundred zeroes behind it. A big number. To its credit as jargon, Google entered as a verb. “I Googled it.” It took Xerox years to move from noun status (I need a Xerox [instead of the generic “copy”]) to that of a verb (I’ll Xerox it). Google – a big number and a powerful verb.

Text has also earned verb status: “I’ll text you.” It took a tad longer to get to that point than Google, but it’s certainly there now. No one questions it. And now we blog and we Digg and we Skype. Bad guys phish. User names and passwords abound. I recently saw “mouseover” for the first time and knew exactly what it meant.

Faxing and its related jargon are quickly heading for the museum if they’re not fully on display there already. Remember FedEx’s “Zap Mail”? When overnight wasn’t fast enough and we all scratched our heads and wondered how. We’re now texting all those folks we used to fax.

And in talking about big numbers, megs and gigs are commonplace. Anyone old enough to remember the start of this revolution and the advent of the digital age knows the whole thing is based on ones and zeroes. Bits and bytes. Even from the beginning they were measured as kilobytes, but megabytes? Wow, that was a big file. Moving it from one place to another could take hours. I now have a 4-gig flash drive smaller than my thumb, and I got it in a Cracker Jack box. It wasn’t long ago that four gigabytes of information ran on mainframes and even those guys were awed by the size. Do we still even have mainframes?

A friend commented that our communication has become very Star Trek-ish, and it’s true. In the not too distant future, we’ll all be tapping our lapel pins to chat with one another. I only wish food preparation technology was moving at the same speed. Let’s face it, microwaves haven’t changed much, if at all, in a quarter century. I’d like to have a food replicator soon. I’ve got all the communication technology I need for now. But a food replicator? Now we’re talkin’. “Tea. Earl Gray. Hot.” Or “Beer. Imported Ale. Cold.” Yeah. Now we’re really talkin’.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Change. A New Era.

So we inaugurated the forty-forth president and the first African American yesterday. Historic implications aside, I’m always a little in awe of the event. To be quite specific: the peaceful transition of power, regardless of party affiliations. It renews my respect and admiration for our founding fathers. It took incredible vision and effort, as well as literal blood, sweat and tears to launch this country.

I’ve read the stories and quote upon quote about a new day dawning, needed change at hand, the positive electricity elicited by this new administration, the next American Camelot. And what’s to become of all that?

If we, the people, don’t do anything, this new administration will idle in neutral and trillions more of our tax dollar spiral down that drain. It’s up to us, as citizens, to roll up our sleeves and get the job done. No handouts, just hard work. The government does not owe anyone a living. Not in this country.

I read this comment today about the inauguration: “For the first time, thousands of Americans are ready and willing to pick up a shovel and do their part of the work.” I gotta ask: Why weren’t they willing to do their part of the work yesterday or the day before that or the day before that? Or even years ago? Seems sad to me that thousands haven’t considered it until yesterday. I suspect our founding fathers would also find that sentiment disappointing, at best.

In looking for a bright side to that comment, I’m hoping the thousands, or even maybe millions, who were moved yesterday “for the first time to pick up a shovel and do their part of the work” do just that. And that they keep doing it even when they get tired of doing it. That we all keep doing it even when we all get tired of doing it. And even if it means we have to shed some blood, sweat and tears in the effort. If you need a role model, crack open a U.S. history book. Look up Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, Hancock, Lee, Bartlett, or any other signer of the Declaration of Independence. Then go to the chapter about drafting the U.S. Constitution.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Another step taken in the 21st Century

Admittedly, I think I was the last one to jump into digital photography. At the very least, I was way behind the curve. I’ve been a self-proclaimed purist all my life, and when the digital realm invaded photography, I was having none of it. Oh, it was fine for snapshots and everyday photos, but I was still quite attached to my 35mm even for snapshots and everyday photos.

“When there’s a digital equivalent to my 35mm, I’ll think about it.”

Then I began reading that many professionals were making the switch, so I investigated their thoughts on the pros and cons. Not that I’m any where near that level, but I figured they were purists just like me. Some loved it, some hated it. I talked at length with the owner of my local photo store about her thoughts. I waited.

Soon, an issue of photography’s flagship, National Geographic, showed up in my mailbox with references to images on their pages being created with digital cameras. Okay, I’ll bite.

Then I saw the price. So I waited some more, and saved, and waited and saved. I researched the camera that would be the closest digital match to my 35mm… and I saved some more.

In the spring of 2006, I took the plunge. I can’t say “I never looked back,” but it certainly has its advantages. Everyone proclaimed unlimited shooting as the biggest advantage. Hey, that never stopped me with film. In my mind, it was always “just another frame.” I always knew out of every roll, there’d be one shot, maybe two that were winners. Nothing’s changed with digital. A poor composition is still a poor composition and bad lighting is still bad lighting.

Granted, the mistakes don’t cost as much any more, but they’re by no means free. Quite a lot of time is spent downloading, editing, cataloging and archiving. In retrospect, some days it really was easier just to drop off a canister (or, in my case, canisters) at the photo store and wait for the results.

For me, the biggest advantage has been getting through airport security. No more insisting that my film be hand-checked and arguing with TSA staff to heed my request because the ISO was below 800. I guess they were often put off by the quantity despite the fact that I had all rolls out of their containers and in a clear bag.

So with a nod and tip-of-the-hat to another facet of the digital revolution, even I don’t use the adjective “digital” any more when referring to my camera. In fact, quite the opposite: My older one is now called my “film” camera. Another forward step in the 21st century.

So with all that said, I’m taking the liberty of posting my favorite shots from the year just passed. Maybe you’ll enjoy them, maybe you won’t. And the internet is just like TV: if you don’t like what you see, change the station… or turn it off.

Cactus at Zion; effervescent happy hour; Angel's Landing trail
Note: Seems "Blogger" doesn't allow me to post as many as I'd like, so for the rest, click the link to Flickr below:

Thursday, January 8, 2009

39 Days and counting....

I heard a countdown today: “Only 39 days until…” and immediately looked at the calendar. It’s January 8th and the inauguration’s on the 20th. Hhhmmm…? Far fewer than 39 days.

“… the end of analog television.” Ah, the end of television, not the peaceful transition of government upon which our great country was founded. “And the Consumer Union is lobbying Congress to delay the February 17th deadline as they’re convinced millions of households are going to be left without television.”

Congress began a new session this week. A new party comes to power. Both Minnesota and Illinois are without junior Senators. The country’s still facing economic turmoil, recessions, a possible depression, record unemployment, bailouts of Wall Street and Detroit, consumer fear and ongoing arguments over stimulus packages, just to name a few minor problems. Seems to me that the 111th Congress has more important issues to legislate than the end of analog television. Then again, it was Congress that mandated it in the first place.

Why are we switching? According to DTV.gov (a website by the Federal Communication Commission and available in 21 languages, thank you very much): “An important benefit of the switch to all-digital broadcasting is that it will free up parts of the valuable broadcast spectrum for public safety communications (such as police, fire departments, and rescue squads).” Seems fair. Public safety and all.

“Also, some of the spectrum will be auctioned to companies that will be able to provide consumers with more advanced wireless services (such as wireless broadband).” Okay, there’s the rub: the cash: “auctioned.”

My question really isn’t about whether or not we need to switch or who gets rich because of it. It’s about the supposed millions who are going to be left without television. Haven’t they been watching for the last year or two? Haven’t they seen all the commercials and newscasts about the switch to digital TV? Could they possibly be unaware that if they don’t take action, they’ll be left without beloved television? As I figure it, they only way they could have missed this would be if they weren’t watching in the first place. And if that’s the case, they probably won’t miss it after February 17th. Right? A perfect Catch-22.

And for those with older TV’s who might be learning about the switch to digital by reading this blog, here’s a note: through a government-established program, every household is eligible for $40 coupons toward the purchase of a converter box so you can still see TV programming. And hey, you can get two of them.

Makes me wonder if the 111th Congress is going to send eighty bucks to those people who don’t watch television in the first place….