25th Reunion Class Report Excerpts

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…It strikes me odd how fast 25 years flew by. I have decided it is a function of age and perception of time. Looking through the eyes of my four year old, I see that a year comprises 25% of his life and proportionally, that is almost 12 years in my life. A lot happens in a year of a 4 year old, and a lot happens in 12 years to a 46 year old, but a year slips by to me like a month does to my little one. So each year, being proportionally a smaller part of my experience, goes by faster and faster, an unwanted acceleration.

We’ve lost some dear classmates…. They still live in my memories, but their absence on my contacts and my Facebook gives me a daily measure of the value of my time here and now. Their remarkably full but brief lives make me believe that living is not just not being dead. Every reunion after the 10th is as much about mortality as it is about taking measure of each other’s progress. It fouls the air with its musky perfume.

I concluded after the last reunion that people don’t really change, but the guys really can gain weight and lose their hair. Everyone should take a look at their weight and work very hard to get back to their Freshman year weight. You will be easier to look at, and you will be healthier and less of a burden to the pedicab driver next time you are in Phuket. Can’t help with the hair.

I think that television programming caters to this middle age navel gazing and explains nicely the current popularity of zombies and meth chemistry. Do you struggle to avoid becoming a zombie or have you have you unwittingly joined the undead? Do you make choices that help others or just yourself? You knew that head on the turtle was rigged to blow but so often you will grab it just because, no? Spoiler Alert –Walter dies. Or was the whole last episode was a fever dream as he froze to death inside the jacked Volvo in New Hampshire. Which isn’t that bad of a way to go.

Speaking of ways to go, would you help your fellow classmate if you ran into them in the post-apocalypse? As you stare at them unblinkingly through the reticule of your rifle, do you ask, “what House were you in?” as your posse dispossesses them of water bottles, tents, and a few cans of Spam. Nice shoes. Do you invite them in, or give them back their water bottles and shoes and send them along, or do think you will need more salt. I would like to think that an invitation would be the sensible thing because we humans are social animals and survive best in bands of trust and kinship, which I assume is a given among you, my brothers and sisters. Unless you lived in the Quad, then at best you might make a passable sopressata.

I recently visited Calabria, speaking of sopressata. Looking out on the sea, with the Aeolian Isles in the horizon, I thought of Odysseus and how he really took his time getting back home. I thought of Saracen Corsairs picking out good spots to land where they could avoid boiling oil showers, and thought maybe they tried the sopressata despite the injunctions if they were curious enough, curiosity being a kind of hunger. I can’t say I understand the meaning of life after that visit, but I can assure you I came a few steps closer staring out onto the sea under moon and stars with the hot Saharan wind pushing you away from the edge of the ruined battlements.

My meaning of life is written in the sweetness of a baby’s breath, the soft kiss of your wife, the sturdy pride in your children’s accomplishments. It is in seeking friendships that aren’t metered in banal Likes but in thoughtful actions. It is to serve the world at large. It also is to buy the latest iPad because you can. And sometimes you take the long way home because you want to, because the car drives nicely. And you try the sopressata, chased with a Zantac…

The Comical Irony That iOS 7 Users Are Suffering From Blue Screens Of Death

docpark:

I have had my iPhone 5 reboot itself spontaneously after the iOS7 upgrade. Also, it will shut down declaring there is no battery left when there was 75% left on the meter. It is behaving no better than my Android 4.3 Nexus 7 Tablet which will crash on occasion as well. Steve would never have allowed this. We are now seeing an “industrial” Apple. People of a certain age can remember a time when Pepperidge Farms was their own company and made amazing chocolate chip cookies. Now these cookies are just another petroleum/corn based byproduct, a faint echo of their original goodness. Going big, which was a dream of every Apple fanatic back in the days right before Jobs returned, has now come back in the form of this kind of behavior -blue screens and defunct Maps. The revolution is over.

Originally posted on TechCrunch:

So Windows sometimes does this thing when your computer freaks the heck out, displays a blue screen, and then reboots or fails in some other way. Called the Blue Screen of Death, it’s long been a cultural meme among nerds about the shortcomings of Windows.

Blue Screens are more past than present, as they are, at least in my experience, more the provenance of Windows XP than Windows 7 or 8.

Anyway, in 2007, Apple made fun of the Blue Screen bit in an icon. Some people found it cute, and others thought it was in poor taste. Here is what it looked like:

2013-10-11_11h28_52Ha. Fair play. Whatever. I mean, it’s cheeky, but calm down.

Fast forward to today, and it turns out that iOS 7 has a Blue Screen problem of its own. Certain actions will cause the screen to flash blue, and then reboot. This wouldn’t be worth…

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Actually ASUS did get there: ASUS VIVO TAb Review

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I wrote during the summer that Microsoft didn’t have a tablet that met the criteria of high definition screen, all day battery life, and functional design. I was writing about their Surface line of tablets that I tried out in a forlorn Microsoft Store. I totally missed ASUS’ VIVO Tab which is roughly the size of a letterbox shaped iPad. By itself it has about 8-9 hrs of battery life but the secret sauce is its keyboard base which was an optional accessory. Unlike keyboard options for iPad, you click this into the charging port and you now have a mini laptop with a touchscreen. The connection is strong and trumps most keyboards for iPad and Surface in that the clamshell configuration lets you put it on your lap. Even better, there is a battery in the base giving the keyboard ballast and the whole device an extra 6 hours of usage. When used with the keyboard base, the VIVO Tab is suppose to get up to 16 hours of battery life which is great for a light laptop/tablet hybrid that is airplane tray table friendly.

Some people won’t like the small keys which are Brobdingnagian compared to my Vaio P Series laptop. The screen is bright and nearly Retina -about the same as the current iPad Mini. I really like the price I paid for it -285 for both the tablet at its battery-keyboard base. This was through Woot and almost half off last year’s price.

The thing runs Office and will link to my hospital system via Citrix. The only snag is there really are no apps for Windows RT which drives this Tegra processor. Yes there is Kindle, Evernote, Dropbox, Netflix, and Hulu and a web browser. The XBox game thing appeals less to me than the radio which is okay but I’m invested in iTunes so it’s irrelevant. There are a ton of programming apps and I think that Windows RT will be a curiosity for nerds like Segways, AMC Pacers, and OG Dr. Who. Even so, having a blank Word screen feels so full of possibilities, I can now spend 16 cordless hours at the Starbucks writing the great American novel. If I had the time.

Addendum: The battery life is for real having used intensively at work yesterday between cases and watching Netflix and Hulu last night. There is enough juice today 47% to go another day of light work. The only hassle is that like all regular Windows devices including Windows 7, Wifi is dicey. I am now at my sons’ Korean class at the Korean Cultural Center and the VIVO Tab refuses to search and find the new network. I rebooted but it started a looooong Windows update which occurs weekly. Now I don’t have a computer to use and am quickly reminded why I generally hate Microsoft products.

The other comment is that the keyboard doesn’t always turn off the screens keyboard which should be a norm. Apple would not have let this out the door in this condition (hence the uproar over its pathetic Maps).

Addendum: The intermittent problems that I have had with the keyboard are actually a problem with the touchpad. Like any non-Apple touchpad, the touchpad on the Vivo Tab, is overly sensitive and will interpret a light touch or hover as a tap to redirect the cursor where the mouse is pointing. This is a problem I have had in most Windows laptops and can be somewhat ameliorated by decreasing the sensitivity of the touchpad, but on Windows RT -access to this is impenetrably difficult. There are two ways to get to the controls of the computer -one via a right swipe which gives you a very limited number of functions to tweak. The other is to get to the desktop mode -the one missing the Start button. From there, getting to the control panels is basically impossible and I managed only by bringing up the Windows Defender control panel during an obligatory scan, noticing the folders setting on top and digging to find the Synaptics driver -but no dice. There is no way to set the touchpad as far as I can tell.

The solution? A USB mouse from an old PC which now takes up the only USB port available.

Microsoft OEM’s don’t understand touchpads -plain and simple.

Addendum: October 15, 2013 -Add to the issue that when the tablet goes to sleep, it won’t wake up. I have updated all drivers and returned the sleep settings to factory original conditions. This is obviously a problem with this tablet because I see it on the internet, but every Windows device going back to Vaio’s I owned in the mid 2000’s had a problem with sleep. It’s probably not a Microsoft problem, but a manufacturer problem, but again, my MacBook Pro sleeps and wakes without problem. With a tablet, not turning on when you want it on is criminal.

Hi Resolution Display, All Day Battery Life -Windows Can’t Get There

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I just picked up a Nexus 7 (2013) tablet. I got tired of waiting for the iPad Mini to come out with a Retina display, and I bit when this gem came out. It confirmed for me this fact -iOS is way, way behind when it comes to interface for mobile devices. But as much as it knocks Apple for the time being, at least until iOS 7 comes out and the inevitable iPad Mini with Retina display, this device illustrates the basic problem afflicting Microsoft in their journey through the thickets. 

They don’t get it when it comes to what is now an absolute for me -high resolution displays are now a given and I can’t work on a pixelated “HD” display that Windows laptops come with. I just can’t see straight after working on a non-Retina display, and am working to ditch any non-high resolution display out of my life. 

But the other cardinal sin committed by Microsoft and Intel is the willful disregard for battery life. The Surface Pro comes with 4 hours touted, meaning 2-3 hours in real life. Most Windows laptops feature 6-7 hours at best meaning 3-5 hours in real life. The solution -extended batteries that add bulge and thickness to already thick devices. These aren’t solutions -they are hacks. 

The Nexus 7 shows that you don’t have to be Apple to hit these considerations -high resolution display and >6 hours of battery life with an easy to use interface that requires no instructions or manuals. It shows how to succeed (they are sold out now everywhere) where Microsoft Windows 8 laptops and tablets languish. I don’t like good enough solutions offered by PC makers to IT admins who have never traveled intercontinental flights -carry your adaptor they say only that PC adaptors weight as much as the computer and take up irregular space, and the 6 hour battery life is really only good for 3 and then you are done.

Microsoft is basically done in the consumer space. Done. 

Manakiki Golf Course -a Donald Ross public gem

ImageI am ecstatic that I found this course while on a “staycation.” For 40 bucks, you get to play a round on a Donald Ross designed course that has been lovingly cared for by the management and players. The greens are in excellent condition and were being rolled by the grounds staff -something you rarely see in most public courses. The bunkers, which I think are the most visible barometers of a golf course’s health, were raked and full of fluffy sand. 

ImageI have read that Donald Ross preferred grass on the upslopes of the bunkers like the ones in his native Scotland. The greens are small and challenging and the landing areas for the drives, while fair, are bounded by dense maple forests. It is not a course for spraying long shots and recovering with a short iron from the other fairway. The greens are not shielded from the bump and run, but it has been so wet lately in Northeast Ohio that it really isn’t an option. Being the first to tee off at 6:18, I was done in about two hours and home for breakfast -something I used to do in Iowa at my old club, Wakonda. I guess I have a karmic link to golf courses with native American names. (Manakiki means maple forest). 

 

Spooky

 

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I have to confess that I like to scare little kids. That feeling of spookiness is one of those childhood sensations that you lose with innocence. The toddler’s wide eyes, the pursed lips, the knitted eyebrows, the scooching over to your side –these are fleeting moments that are quickly lost to school, electronics, and television. The stories I tell are more life lessons than actual tales –mostly of sad ghosts who regret telling lies, spirits who never let go of their anger, and being trapped by your own foibles. I have a feeling that I got this from my grandmother who would tell me folk tales and parables about boys who got eaten by tigers and had their faces erased by angry spirits who appeared alternately as beautiful women and sly foxes. The day the magic ends is when the kids figure out that Santa Claus doesn’t slide down the chimney and the Easter Bunny is some poor flub sweating in a smelly outfit.

Review -Olympus E-PL5 Micro 4/3 Mirrorless Camera

ImagePicked up this camera along with a 45mm F1.8 lens at the duty free in Incheon (always dangerous to wait there for your flight). I had held off purchasing a full SLR for years because of the weight, but handling this, I found it to be light and extremely portable. The pictures it takes trumps anything you can Instagram on the iPhone (and I take a lot of decent iPhone shots). The optics and the larger photosensor gives you amazingly clear images that a point and shoot or smartphone cannot possibly match. 

Take this shot, cropped from a larger image taken from my bedroom window with the stock 14-42mm lens. 

ImageThe light capturing ability (this was dawn) and clarity are unmatched. The fixed 45mm F1.8 lens was chosen for the ability to compose portraits and capture kids in action. The picture below was taken with this lens.

ImageAll of these shots were taken on full program (auto) mode. The first shot of the camera itself was taken with the Olympus XZ-1 which has a F1.8 pancake lens. You can pick up the XZ-1 for cheap at about 200, while the E-PL5 is available for around 550-650USD. 

While I love my iPhone’s camera -after all, it is usually the only camera I have on me, the E-PL5 gives me the chance at taking some amazing shots. I will extend this review as I use the camera. 

 

 

 

Are you in?

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The generations since World War II have been separated into marketing niches of Greatest and Boomer, then X,Y, and Z, but I suspect that no set of people since Homo erectus figured out fire, speech, and monogamy, have faced as much rapid technological and cultural change as have the people born since 1950. This unmooring of cultural institutions, socioeconomic niches, and family structures is remarkable and deeply unsettling to many.
Modernity has atomized the family, but we are still the Pleistocene mammal subject to possessiveness, territoriality, and stranger anxiety. We are just a handful of base pairs removed from our mutual ancestor with the chimpanzee who kill and eat intruders. And so we naturally flock with our kind in our hominid fashion, and wish to destroy the other if they get in the way. What stops us?

Strong ideas keep us from burning witches. Ideas of justice, equality of human worth, and an appreciation of value of freedom and liberty bind us together in a common identity. These ideas are shared across borders instantaneously, usually in English, on the internet via smart phones and social media. These are rather old American ideals and should not be new to those wary of change. Instead, it is the broadening of the definition of *American* that jars people. It is an America that people are still looking towards as they overturn dictatorships and established tyrannies. We see it in the Arab Spring, in the continue march of the huddled masses to the gates, and in gay Americans fighting to achieve equal status. We witness it as a force that China is trying to subvert with overt fascism, with likely failure in the long term.

This neo-Americanism is the lingua franca of business and diplomacy. It is the common operating system that everyone demands. At home, to succeed in this new America, you have to learn how to pass for a new kind of American. It is a fact that if you make yourself smile, your brain will register positive in its happiness centers, and you will transition to happiness (try it!). If you carry a smart phone, participate in social media, and read at above elementary school level, the centers of the brain that are stimulated will drive change. Corporate HR policies, public school codes of conduct, and public social mores are aligning around and driving this change, even for older Americans who one would assume would be all for not changing. It used to be said that you are basically set in your ways by the time you are forty, but I think even that generalization is done because I increasingly see retired people with smartphones and tablets watching the latest Youtube videos and family photos on Facebook. This at least informs them about the tectonic shifts in society, and at best changes deep seated notions.

Public perceptions of gun ownership, healthcare, education, equal rights, and our relationship to the world are being debated because the minds of the people are changing. And contrary to what even the history books say, it was not the federal government and federal troops that desegregated the schools, it was We the People. The shibboleth of these times, our times, are the smart phone, social media accounts, and the networks connected by these. Are you in?

docpark:

It has been more than half a year since I posted this, but recent events have caused a spike of interest in this post which is getting over a thousand hits a day, give or take. People ask me to look into a crystal ball and I think that it is unlikely that there will be war. North Korea has had a relationship to China not unlike that which Bulgaria had with the former USSR -eg. Need the Pope shot? Get the Bulgarians to do it. The Chinese are unlikely to accept having nuclear missiles capable of hitting Beijing NOT under its direct control. China’s signing of the UN sanctions came at some cost to the US -likely an agreement to forego pressing on the hacking attacks on the US homeland. This may be a way of purging internal enemies in North Korea -of getting rid of Korean patriots there by ferreting out dissent or even the less than enthusiastic support of what is clearly a suicidal act of national policy. Imagine South Korean capital combined with North Korean labor. It took three decades of intensive work to eliminate the culture of casual corruption and establish the rule of law and democracy in the south. A reunited Korea would be, after a decade or so of adjustment, a top 5 world economy. I don’t think China would not accept this unless Seoul is a radioactive slag heap with the fallout blowing to Japan. the Pacific, and the US west coast.

Originally posted on Golfism -life is a metaphor for golf:

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The Olympics make me cry. Watching Gabby Douglas triumph brought tears to my eyes. The Pistorius story  makes me bawl. Every four years, I choke up, and what makes me always choke up is the story of the two Koreas. Looking at the results to date, the South (ROK) has 9/3/5 in gold, silver bronze, giving it a total 17 in medal count. The North, (PRK) has 4/0/1, or 5 total. Combined, that is 13/3/6 or 22 total so far. In terms of golds, it would place Korea 4th behind the UK, and it would tie with France in the total count. This makes me cry and cry watching the clips of Koreans winning. When Rim Jong Sim, North Korean power lifter took gold, I cried -happy at the thought of all the food that she and her family would get. 

While I harbor many dark thoughts about the North…

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