29 September 2011

Are you easily impressed by technology?

It is September 29, 2011. Do know where your technology is?

I have discovered that, beyond all reasonable expectations, it is possible to teach an old dog a new trick. The hard part was finding an old dog. Especially one willing to learn a new trick. Then there is the issue of the trick. What might be suitable?

In my case, I learned how to create new pages on my Blogger blog (this one). So I made some new pages, one for each of my novels. I count the ones that are in some stage of the publication process. Two have been accepted and are on the assembly line, two others are tentatively accepted pending approval of the full manuscript, and one is my "baby"--the one through which I hope to grasp eternity. You can check them out (i.e., read what I have put on each page, not visit your library; they aren't that ready yet).

Thought you'd want to know. Not everyone, of course, will be easily impressed by my technological prowess, but someone might. Thus, I decided to post about it. I like when things go my way. It doesn't happen too often, which is all the more reason to celebrate. Tonight I shall drink until drunk, eat until satiated, and sleep the sleep of the dead. Tomorrow I shall learn something new.

26 September 2011

Is this a Hacker Trick or has Facebook gone Mad?

Moments ago I posted this on my Facebook page - yes, after finally getting back in!

For some inexplicable reasons known probably only to Mr. Zuckerberg's assistant's sister's ex-lover's grandfather's dog that channels some ancient Greek hero, I was barred from my page unless I offered up my phone number. Since I never gave Facebook any phone number, it would not have matched anyway. So I was offered, hours later, the opportunity to identify the pictures of my friends. Because I do not routinely peruse the albums of my business associates I have no idea how their children or pets, houses or vacation destinations look. Too many wrong selections and I was booted again. No problem, I did my proper work for my day job. Back again, more pictures to i.d., but I was given enough that I could identify and here I am!

(Along with great [that should be "great"] new changes, comes another round of security checks and the usual paranoia. Have a back-up plan, techies. The day will come when things won't work and you will be alone in the dark.)

    • Stephen Swartz ‎(And...I got a message pop up that said that the reason for the security check, in part, was to be sure everyone had only 1 page. I suppose with the new list feature, there is no longer any need to have a page for your family and a page for your perversions. Just so you know....)

Earlier today, I posted this bit of text, ranting about the misunderstanding I and Facebook were having:

Hey Everybody,

I thought I'd ask: Have you gotten a box pop up when you logged on to Facebook that asks you to log on again and when you click on it to log in AGAIN it asks for your phone number? I am not allowed to proceed until I give a phone number. I remember FB always hassling me to give a phone number "in case I forget my password" but I never forget my password.

I'm wondering if this is a hacker/spammer thing to get people's phone number. The explanation "Facebook" gives is that they want to assure that everyone has only one page.

Anyway, I have 3 pages: one for family/relatives, one for grad school friends, and one as author (plus my fan page). This has appeared on one but not yet on the others.

Let the world know I am locked out until I hand over my precious phone number. (I'm not going to give up my phone number because nobody needs to know that unless I want a call from them.)

Have a nice day!

NOW...in the alternative...Facebook wants me to identify my friends by their pictures...THEN it shows me pictures of their vacation destinations...no people!

I can't imagine how those who have thousands of friends can identify every picture shown.

The point, obviously, is that it is simply easier to give up your phone number to the global community, thereby sacrificing yet another bunch of numbers to corporate marketing, hackers and spammers, and stalkers.

All is calm now...but there is, like the urge to attend to the bathroom, always tomorrow!

19 September 2011

Color by any other Name would be . . . Music

It has come to my attention that not all blogs are created equal. Equality can never be assured if design templates are employed. Someone somewhere will always have the same look. One thing that can be changed, that also will have great impact (so say the soothsayers), is to change the color scheme of the blog pages. (Another change is to have short paragraphs, so...)

I've read on someone's blog page (I'll update the link when I relocate it, thanks!) that readers prefer dark text on light background - rather than what I had: light text on dark background. Thus, forevermore (quothe my raven), shall I use dark text on light background.

This becomes relevant in several ways. First, I make my readers happy, even though no-one has complained about the color scheme. Second, I may yet draw in more readers, those who might have initially been tempted to peek at a scrumptious headline's promising titillation. Third, I am able to satisfy my boredom with the existing color scheme, which has been on tap now for more than a year. And lastly, I am able to fulfill the goal of adding yet another blog post for the month of September.

This last item may yet prove to be the most significant reason. But I digress - even before I regress.

As this blog was birthed chiefly to shout to the world the existence of another world henceforth dubbed The Dream Land and procured and packaged into a trilogy of textual elements, known commonly as The Dream land trilogy, it seems appropriate, and not without some representative jollity, that a pertinent sampling of the same be offered here. It's a passage relating to color, light, and music.

In the first volume of The Dream Land (Book I: Long Distance Voyager), our heroes, two geeky high school sweethearts dabbling in quantum physics out at an abandoned quarry one summer, discuss the way music is actually sound, which is actually light, the manipulation of which could cause the fabric of the universe to tear. One portion reads thus:

Gina got him worked up thinking of the Theory. Now she was laughing at him, telling him it was a joke!  But here were the notebooks filled margin to margin with equations, charts, graphs—everything to prove her correct.  And she was not interested.  She wanted to continue her carefree college life learning how to treat mental illness with music.
“It’s Music Therapy,” she said firmly, “and it’s a real subject.”
“What does music have to do with anything?” he asked her.  “It’s nice and I enjoy it.  Remember my scholarship?  Yet, despite making life more pleasant, what does it really have to do with anything important in the universe?”
She shook her head, her blond hair tossed by the breeze.
            “You talk about the universe as though it was your own private garden, something you sow and hoe every day,” Gina snapped back.  “Sebastian, you can’t see the damn forest because of all the rotten logs falling on top of you!  Can’t you put the tiniest figures together long enough to see that music is more than some song you hear.  It’s math.  It’s more than math, it’s the rhythm of the spheres.  Planets spin to music, comets shoot to music, suns go nova to music, the whole damn universe is sewn together by a zillion musical strings—like a curtain with interwoven threads.  That’s why we study music—not because it helps us get through our days, but because it makes the entire universe exist!  It’s all connected; it all is—all the same thing.  You know that.  Don’t you?  Take middle-C: its frequency is 558.15 Hertz.  If you double it you get an octave higher, right?  If you double it forty times you get light, specifically the color of light we might call indigo. It’s the same with other notes, with other colors. Play with sound, with the light spectrum, and you’re playing with the universe!”

And there you have it! An excerpt to stimulate your musical sensibilities and brighten your day. May you always be enamored by the colors of your day, the hues of your moods, and the shades of your thoughts, feelings, and words - for they are all the same: light and shadow - colors.

15 September 2011

What's Up with Being Happy on Happy Birthday?

Being Happy on B'day (the repost)

So here it is again: the ubiquitous birthday.  Same day every year.  Why are we not tired of it already?  It returns each year like a plague, with swarms of expectations threatening to overwhelm us.  Nevertheless, it seems quite reasonable that each of us deserves a special personal day--no matter how naughty we may have been.  One day of the year.  That's all.  24 hours, give or take.  That's harmless enough, isn't it?  Everyone should get a day off from work, school, hassle, red lights, dirty laundry, taxation, crying babies, etc.

My history, however, proves that my birthday is usually the worst day of the year for me.  I've analyzed the reasons for this phenomena.  It probably has to do with the higher expectations I have for the day.  Or the timing of the day among the starting of the school year or the football/autumn season.  Things seem to happen at this time of the year.  One year there was a flood that drew everyone's attention away from my day.  Then there was the terrorist attack on September 11th.  I'm not claiming that those events occurred exclusively to thwart celebration of my continued aging.  Just coincidences.  My birthday was a coincidence: my mother often tells the story of how I was "due" eleven days earlier.  If only I had been born on time!  Perhaps the world would be different now.

So, given the randomness of a birthday and its almost obligatory acknowledgement, what can we do to properly deal with the many expectations and the certain failure we have to meet them?  Some would go to extremes to indulge themselves.  It's only fair.  Others would gather family and friends and have a round of cake and ice cream.  One day won't hurt.  Some will lie about the advancing years, hide their true age as though it were some fatal disease.  My father still insists with every passing birthday that he is "turning 39"--again; which makes me, what? six? year after year.

No, what I want is quite simple:

Just let everything go my way, just for one day.  I don't care about a party; I'm an adult now.  I don't care about gifts; I can buy what I want now.  I don't need celebration; It would either be trite or downright embarrassing.  I'd rather pass the day alone, locked in my home, safely away from the world.  Inside my fortress of solitude, of course, I'd indulge myself in various ways.  Sleep late.  Watch a favorite movie.  Eat my favorite foods.  Play video games.  Read a book I've been waiting to get to.  Do something absolutely unimportant and unproductive.

And so, for the mother who suffered through labor, for the teachers and classmates who had to deal with me from nursery school through college, for the relatives who alternately tolerated, or were horrified or amused by my life events, for the strangers who happily avoided me, for the colleagues from university and work and extracurricular activities who with some disdain endured the annual rituals of self-abandonment on this day, for all of the people I have encountered, for better or worse, let me say a humble thanks for not getting in my way on the one day of the year when I really do wish, with the maximum amount of sincerity and straight from the gut, to say to the world: "Leave me the hell alone! ...at least for 24 hours."

Thanks, and see you all next year.

08 September 2011

The Allure of Time Killers

It is now September and I am feeling pressure to post the first blog of the month. Strange sensation, the pull of words! The push of perusers! The tickle of the morning light and how it calls the fingers to the keyboard even before the mind has formed thoughts, translated them into language, and sent them along the neural pathways to the fingertips. And yet...I'm doing it. It is less than an addiction, more than OCD.

These days, it seems, especially now that my so-called day job has exploded into a full-time monstrosity, a certain portion of each day must be spent on connecting to one's myriad electronic venues. There has always been email to check, and the more accounts one has--each for its own nefarious purpose, no doubt--but now there is also Facebook and its multiple personas to monitor and manage, and the same perhaps for MySpace, Tumblr, and other similar "social networking" sites. (I wish I had coined that term; could be making billions off the rights by now!) Plus Twitter--again with several separate accounts. Now there's Google+ which I'm still not sure how to operate. And for writers and readers, there are plenty of sites online such as Goodreads, of which I have recently become a member. I have also joined a site for those interested in Steampunk, a genre or sub-genre (no fights, please) of science-fiction or utopian/dystopian fiction. And don't get me started on all the blogs my friends and a few strangers have created, maintain, and add to often enough, occasionally intriguing or amusing me.

I find myself getting up earlier now than I really need to just to get myself ready for a weekday's normal effort simply to be able to check everything. I need to be sure the world is safe for social networking. I need to be certain that my previous comments have been commented on--or rejected--or, worse, ignored. I shun arguments on Walls--unless I'm right and everyone knows it. I must check that things are happening, that political views are in balance, that social issues are being taken care of by someone, someone other than me. And, for good measure, I usually check them all again, in order or perhaps only the most critical ones, before logging off and leaving for the day's Grand Illusion.

I feel refreshed, confident, relaxed, knowing that I have checked in, that my field of audiences have been informed that I still exist. (Some are no doubt surprised.) Perhaps that fact alone is enough to compel some to socially dismiss the network in favor of the other, older networks: what used to be the visual arena of ideas and entertainment, expanded a thousandfold. Yes, I speak of television, that splintered soul now languishing in the wastelands of electronica, hanging on for dear life with dancers and singers and Hollywood mavens of malevolence, or whatever else can be stood in front of a camera and later mocked. (It's endless, of course.)

And so there remains, for an escape, the ancient art of linguistic scribbles pressed into wood shavings. I refer to the ubiquitous book. Such pleasures I have known with a good book between my hands! Such adventures I have fled the world to enrapture myself in! And still, that paradise, that comfy bed of brain bliss, even that venue is changing! Yes, the sacred objet-d'art is joining the electronic universe! With a few tweaks and more than a few reconsiderations ("Do I really want to say that? Will anyone actually read this?"), any book written today may be sent through the vast airwaves to a handheld mechanical device upon which one's eyes may come to focus for pleasure, perversion, or perhaps a person's private pontification. The possibilities are perfectly pointless.

However, this is not the place (though it may seem to be, being one of those electronic utopias about which I rant) for a discussion of the nature of the newest Age of Books. (No, I'm not cynical; I'm Stephen.)

I must now click the "post" button and make my words part of the universe--praying that someday, some far-away intellectual fool on a far-away world, in some random, slavish moment of silence comes to encounter these words, translate them into ideas, and thereby know that I existed, once upon a very long time ago, a time which was less fairy tale than instructional manual, and closes its eye(s) in delightful calm after a good night's fine contemplation.