Thursday, March 11, 2010

Aliens have invaded my computer, my car and front tooth--what's next? See post below.

The Daily Babble

It's been awhile since I've done one of these. Not to distract you from the really important news, like the attempts to exploit the addled rantings of an ex-congressman, or the Chief Justice's hissy fit. But I'm afraid I'm drawing attention to myself, something that of course the Internet doesn't usually permit.

I just wanted to warn you--both of you--that I might be "off the air" for awhile. My laptop more or less died a few months ago, and I've been slow to replace it. Now this computer, my main almost brand new desktop, has developed a problem, I think. I had trouble getting it to turn on yesterday (no 60s jokes, please, not here in Humboldt), and today it refused. I tried everything I could think of--plugging into a different power strip, disconnecting and reconnecting the power cord, and usually different rhythms in pressing the power button--one long holding it down, a bunch of short jabs, etc. but nothing happened.

I called the computer doctors who said it sounded like the power whatcacallit, only $50 bucks to replace plus the $80 an hour to replace it. And maybe 3 or 4 working days at best before I got it back. They said I might be able to recover some files while I'm there, so I can go on making a living.

Only trouble was I couldn't get it there right away, because my car won't start. Not an unknown problem for the last six months, but the mechanics can't tell what's wrong, and I'm contemplating a different approach (different mechanic, mainly.) So the old Volvo sits out there motionless.

I was about to head over to campus to find Margaret and see when she could give me and my computer a ride. I turned off the light, and as I passed it, I hit the computer power button one more time. It went on. So ever since, I've been backing up, doing the work I need to do for the rest of the week and into next, and sending it out. I had to cancel an appointment, and miss my discount day at the groc. But as long as the thing is on, so must I be.

My slowness in dealing with the car, as well as a few other things I should be taking care of, is partly due to a visit to the dentist. Where he told me that the work on one solitary tooth will cost me more than a new (quite used) car and laptop computer combined. It will cost more than I made writing my theatre column for the local weekly--for all last year. The work of 24 columns will disappear in two hours.

I got a second opinion--or rather, the same opinion from a second dentist, yesterday. So it will have to be done, and for the next year, I'll be working for the dentist. That's the one job. The other is the part-time "communications specialist" work for two university departments, both of which are currently on the list for "program elimination," as HSU has to cut another million plus from it's incredible shrinking budget. So money in is becoming a non-renewable resource. Can't say the same for money out.

Compared to the future I've been dealing with for planet Earth and human civilization, it's all pretty trivial. But it's my trivial. My little so-called life. And here on my little so-called blog, I can rant about it--at least until the computer goes off.

Well, be seeing you. Sometime.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Two views of Denali National Park in Alaska, one of the things we've done right, noted in the post below.

Some Things We've Done Right

When it comes to the human impact on the future, we have done some things right. I am often astonished that libraries still exist, for example, and that all you have to do to find the best and the latest thoughts, facts and dreams is follow the signs into the stacks to the right shelf, and there they are, waiting for you.

Something else came freshly to my attention over the weekend when I happened on a rebroadcast of the Ken Burns' series, The National Parks: America's Best Idea. (Maybe it was rebroadcast because this is the birth month of the first National Park. )

It's America's best idea all right, and also by now, one of humanity's, as the protection of wilderness, natural wonders and wildlife habitats is a worldwide phenomenon. I saw much of the last episode, which was replete with stories of lives transformed by family visits to national parks when children were at impressionable ages. I was getting wistful about not having had such an experience, when they showed the March on Washington in 1963--I was there for that, but hadn't ever really thought about the fact that it was held in a national park--that Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke with Park Rangers at his side.

But it was the more familiar kinds of parks that were most interesting, and you have to admire people who devote their lives to them--four generations in one family. This segment dealt with the 50s and 60s, the controversial improvements and expansions by our socialist President Eisenhower and JFK Interior Secretary Stewart Udall. And then the biggest additions to the parks system in the 70s, in Alaska. How controversial that was--how the first bill to create parks there sailed through the House but was blocked in the Senate by filibuster. How President Jimmy Carter then used executive authority to declare National Monuments to protect as much as he could. How Alaskans were outraged--burned Carter in effigy--threatened to shoot National Park Service rangers--threatened to secede from the union they'd just joined.

both photos: Denali National Park in Alaska

But five years after the town of Seward was in revolt, it was raking in quiet tourist dollars and happy about it, so eventually it would request that the park area be expanded. Eventually National Parks--as well as wilderness areas and wildlife refuges--were created. Some, of course, still controversial.

The Parks often had to deal with political opposition, and many were compromised--that still happens, as in the current corporate eating away at the Everglades. At the same time, environmentalists and Indian tribes sometimes opposed roads and "improvements." Yet somehow, in the general ravaging of the landscape, more of it remains than otherwise would, and millions of people visit. Some are changed by it. And many don't have to go--they just have to know these places exist.

We do have good ideas, we do dream up better futures daily. Sometimes we even act on them. I realize that recent posts outline a significantly challenging future. But there are ideas, like a couple previewed in Thomas Friedman's latest column, that might still improve the long-term chances significantly. Even in the Crisis and Cataclysm periods, there are ways people can make a positive difference. For those readers not yet scared away, I'll be writing about that, too, in future posts.