And What Color is the Sky on YOUR Planet?

The BBC published a story today — http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-18585020 — about the resurgence of the Baby Box in Europe (and apparently in some places in Canada).

If you’re not familiar with the concept, this is the rebirth of a practice that existed in late medieval Europe. Baby boxes are warm, safe places at a hospital or other location where a parent can anonymously leave their child in safety. They also have the right, should it be necessary, to return if they change their mind (or their circumstances).

I don’t think this is a bad thing at all.  So many times we are horrified by a news story of a new mother leaving her child in a garbage bin because she can’t deal with a birth. Often it’s a teenager who is afraid of parental anger or who doesn’t have any idea of how to be a parent. Quite often the child dies of exposure.  Occasionally they’re rescued. In the meantime the mother has become a criminal and in the end, several lives may be ruined.  So the baby box is a valid idea, in my opinion.

Unfortunately, the people who live in those ivory towers of academia and such places don’t agree.  Kevin Browne of Nottingham University in the UK (http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/iwho/people/kevin.browne) has it that baby boxes violate women’s rights.  Apparently, Dr. Browne is gifted with telepathy or some other special ability which provides him with near-omniscience.  Despite the fact that the whole process is anonymous, he knows that usually it’s not the mother who leaves her child, but a manipulative spouse or pimp. (those men!)

Apparently, the infant’s right to grow up and have rights of his/her own is of no importance.  The University paper quotes a United Nations dictum that says a child being abandoned has its rights violated.  How about getting a new family and parents who love it? Do they not have that right either?

I’m sick beyond words of out of touch academics who are so fixated on liberal causes and ideas that they have no ability to see the individual for the masses. And I’m tired of seeing children’s rights abnegated by other people’s self-interest – before birth or after.

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“N”: looking for Nepenthe

Life doesn’t always work the way you expect.  In fact, it hardly ever seems to.

I’m in a relationship with someone who is bipolar.  Whether it’s the illness or his own innate nature, he is also very self-centered.  If he has decided a thing is to be, because he wants it, you can’t get him to change his mind.

Last night, we were driving home when I tried to explain to him that I didn’t want to make a change that he wanted.  I felt that it was a bad decision and that I would prefer not to leave the situation I was currently in.

His response was to scream at me while we (I) drove down the freeway, and when I tried to defuse his anger, he swung his arm and hit me.  While I was driving 65 mph.

Fortunately, there was no one around us and I wasn’t in the innermost lane, or I would have hit the concrete barriers as I swung the wheel out of instinct.

I sleep a lot — I think it’s my way of avoiding dealing with him unless I have no other choice. I’m not in a position to leave.  I just wish I could find a quiet place and forget.

“B” is for Books

I had intended a different post for today, but I’ve deferred it for “Q” (you’ll see why when we get there.  Besides, “Q” would be a hard letter otherwise.)

Is there anything as good as books?

All apologies to the Nook and Kindle crowds — ebooks have their place — but there’s nothing quite so wonderful, IMHO, as the smell of ink and paper and the solid feeling of a book in your hand. I can’t imagine going anywhere without something to read — I think I’d go nuts — and it helps to know I don’t have to plug a book in or worry about losing my connection.

Besides, books can start conversations or discussions (or even debates), help form friendships and talk to total strangers about you without making a sound. How nice is it to have a kindred spirit lean over on the bus and say, “I read that! How are you liking it so far?” Sometimes you can get references about other books — I’ve gotten so picky about what I read. Nowadays, if you can’t catch me and make me want to read past the first four pages, you’re back on the shelf.  But if you come with references — ah, then you get more of a chance to please me.

Every time I read that books are “going away”, I laugh.  The day may come when there are fewer, but as long as my library and I exist, they’ll never go away completely.

Make me just wanna holler…

One of my most cherished childhood memories involves Christmas Eve.  When I was young (less than 10 years old), our church, Zion Lutheran Church in downtown Akron, Ohio, had a Christmas Eve pageant on Christmas Eve night.  Afterwards, my mom and dad would walk my sister and I down the hill (you’d have to be from Akron to know what  I mean — it was some hill!) and we’d walk along South Main Street and look at the animated windows that Polsky’s and O’Neil’s had up.  Then we’d walk back up to the church parking lot and go home.

What is mostly attached to that memories, besides remembering my parents, is how peaceful that night was.  There was very little traffic, I can’t ever remember feeling unsafe, and there was an almost unworldly calm that I associate with Christmas to this day.

Yesterday is what is known in retail parlance as “Black Friday”. It kicks off the “selling” season that has NOTHING to do with Christmas, and it was anything but peaceful.  Here in Northeast Ohio, in a relatively prosperous community called Strongsville, there was a virtual riot at a Victoria’s Secret.  Listen to the video below, filmed just before the store happened and the “riot” occurred.

In California, a woman pepper-sprayed the other shoppers in her vicinity so she could have the advantage.

I despair, sometimes, because many people who call themselves Christians aren’t and damage Jesus’ name. This “holiday” and all that it has become goes one step further in making a mockery of my faith. The magi didn’t claw their way through a mall to bring Jesus gold, frankincense and myrrh to honor him.

And the real reason for remembering Jesus’ birth is about his ultimate gift to us — he died on the cross, suffered rejection from His Father, so we could have eternal life. Not so we could mangle each other for a gift that will likely be returned or broken or be ultimately meaningless.

This is not my Christmas, not any more. I have decided I don’t need a special day for remembering Jesus. Yes, I will probably participate in a few things —  do the “secret Santa” thing at work, for example — but Christmas isn’t just one day. Not for me.

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year” Ebenezer Scrooge

Love is Blindness…

‘”Love is drowning
In a deep well
All the secrets
And no one to tell…”

U2, “Love is Blindness”

I’ve spent the last few weeks thinking about and praying for a lot of friends. My contemporaries and I have started to hit the age where parents and even siblings are encountering serious, even life-ending, illness. While I’ve already had my adoptive mom and dad pass, and seen my sister through some health scares, I still (not being an island) am connected to what those around me are going through.  And I still have some involvement with my birth father. To make a long story a little shorter, I’ve spent a lot of time pondering mortality lately. But that’s not what this post is about.

I have one particular friend who means a lot to me.  No.  I’m tired of being a coward about my feelings — although part of me is glad that my friend doesn’t have time to read blog posts. 🙂  This person is special to me in a major way. And again I’m not being straight up about this.  I love him very much. And right now, he’s helping to see his dad through cancer treatment, as well as running his businesses and taking care of his family on a day to day basis.  Also, I think — though he’s never confirmed it and I won’t press him about it — that he is dealing with health issues of his own.  If you ask him, he’ll say he’s fine and then change the subject to ask you how you’re doing.  He’s that kind of guy.

I’ve never told him how I feel.  I never will. Not that he sees me that way — at most I’m just a nice person he talks to on the Internet — at worst, I’m probably a major pest. 🙂 And I have commitments, too, that preclude this being anything but a long-distance friendship; promises I intend to keep, although there are days when I could cheerfully walk away from them. Sometimes it all gets to be too much. But I keep on keeping on.  And for my friend, I express my love the only way I can — by not saying anything at all. Just to be there as much as is possible, to hold him in my heart and pray for him.

Some times love is muteness, too.

I will remember you… (RIP Steve Jobs)

MacClassic

Back in the dawn of time, when dinosaurs still walked the earth and computers filled an entire room (i.e., 1977), I was  a student at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, toting a big box of punch cards to FORTRAN class.  In those days, most computers were mainframes or midranges (like the DEC VAX or IBM’s System/3x) and what few “personal computers” existed weren’t seen as much more than toys.  That was also the year Apple Computers released the Apple IIC and it gained some popularity in secondary education, but no one would have based a career on using/supporting them.  The more widely used Commodore Color Computer (known to the cogniscenti as the “CoCo”) and the Timex Sinclair wouldn’t come along until the early 1980s and the IBM PC wouldn’t be generally available until 1981.

That was then.

In 1985, I went to work at a company doing spreadsheets in Lotus 1-2-3 and Symphony. They had an early IBM PC with a monochrome (green) monitor, two 5 1/4″ floppy disk drives and no hard drives.  Everything was stored on floppies and to start the computer, you inserted a DOS disk (3.1, if I recall correctly) and then put in a key disk to get Lotus to run.  You used the other drive for the disks that stored your data.  As much as a revelation as it was for accounting, it wasn’t much help for anything else.  Word processing was done on a Wang system.

About three months after I started, the engineering department suddenly had this odd little oblong box, sitting upright.  They told me it was a Mac Classic.  I didn’t know what that meant, but it had an immediate impact on my professional life.  Previously, making a bar chart meant using cardboard cutouts and rulers to draw what you needed, and if anything was wrong, or the numbers changed, you had to start over again.  Very annoying.  However, this “Mac Classic” had a piece of software on it called “MacChart”. With MacChart, you could build your graphs on the computer, and if anything changed, it took a couple of keystrokes to make the changes. At that point, you still had to leave space in your document, cut the chart out and paste it in (the origin of the term “cut and paste” :)). But not having to start over from scratch was a major breakthrough. These Macs were something else!

As I look back over the past twenty-plus (nearly 30!) years from the vantage point of the present, I see what a profound impact Steve Jobs’ vision for Apple and his subsequent successes had on all of us, but especially veterans of the IT industry.  What ever you may think of Mr. Jobs and Mr. Gates personally, there is no doubt in my  mind that their “anything you can do, I can do better” battles resulted in more, better and faster improvements to personal computer operating systems, hardware and apps than would have happened if either had stood alone. In my humble opinion, Windows (whatever its failings) would be as good as it is if Bill Gates didn’t have Steve Jobs upping the ante, as it were, by his ongoing improvements to Macintosh.

And then there are the changes provoked by the post-Mac iNnovations (sorry, couldn’t resist) of the iPhone, iPad, iPod, Apple TV, and so on. Each of them kicked off new technology in their respective areas and spurred other innovators to create competitive products.  Technology thrives best when there’s competition, and Apple provided plenty of that, due to Mr. Jobs’ ideas and forethought.

If you look at the current status and past history of personal technology, the road is littered with once-thriving companies who are barely more than peripheral these days (Lotus, WordPerfect); companies who had their day, weren’t willing or able to evolve, and died; companies that made a big splash and then sank without a trace; and the up-and-comers whose destiny has yet to be determined.  Then, there are the survivors and major players: Microsoft, Adobe, Google — and Apple. I expect Apple to be a part of that select company for many years to come.

Rest in peace, Mr. Jobs. You had a major impact on the 20th and 21st centuries, bigger maybe than even you knew.  You will be missed.

Where were you when the world stopped turning?

Yes, I’m a day late with this.

I cried yesterday when they played “Taps” before the Browns game, but I’d been upset before that, watching the video someone made with video and photographs to Alan Jackson’s song. Today, I have what a friend of mine called a “9/11 hangover” and this post is the result

If anything should come of the aftermath of the events of 9/11, even ten years (and one day) on, it seems to me it ought to be a reassessment of what’s really important to us. Over and over again, I’m brought to a realization that no one who died that day is likely to have woken up thinking, “Well, this is it. I don’t get any more mornings after this one.” I doubt they did anything majorly different from the things they normally did. They fed the cat/dog/fish/bird, thought about what they’d make or get for dinner that night and tried to organize their work day, setting priorities and deciding what to tackle when they hit their desks.  Some of them went to vote — but most of those folks didn’t make it back to the office in time to be victims of the terrorists.

Not that I think we ought to spend our whole lives focused on death, but it might not hurt to occasionally realize that now is all the time there may ever be. No one is promised one second more than the one they’re in right now. It’s a good idea not to defer the kindness you mean to do, to tell a loved one that they matter to you, to do whatever it is you can do to improve the world in your immediate vicinity.

Forgive me for saying this — I’m sure it will come across as morbid — but I have always wondered what passes through someone’s mind when they realize that THIS time, there won’t be any second chances. I don’t think it’s possible to die without regrets. I don’t think anyone’s life is so perfect that there isn’t at least one thing they wish they had or hadn’t done — unless they’re really deluding themselves. I do think it’s possible to reduce the number of regrets. And maybe that’s the ultimate gift those 3,000-plus people give us; to honor their memories by making whatever difference we can.  It has to be a more positive legacy than hatred and war, don’t you think?