Posts Tagged ‘Google’

Positive Vibes for Negative Times

Sunday, October 29th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

good news jpgTrump to Puerto Rico: Drop Dead!

Trump to Americans struggling to afford health insurance: Drop dead!

Trump to North Korea: Drop dead!

Trump to the free press: Drop dead!

Trump to the LGBT community: Drop dead:

Trump to immigrants: Drop dead!

Trump to NFL players: Drop dead!

Trump to Iran: Drop dead!

Trump to pregnant war widow: He knew what he signed up for.

Trump to anyone who will listen: I am not a moron!

                                                         ***

In reply to my recent column on the Nibiru planet hoax and efforts to contact intelligent life elsewhere in the universe — maybe even set up a colony on Mars — my friend Ernie Miller commented: “It is nice you can maintain a positive outlook amidst the carnage and cacophony that is daily life.”

“Ernie,” I replied,“it ain’t easy.”

In truth, it has never been harder in the half century I have been writing about “daily life,” as it were.

As it is, today it is sometimes unbelievably depressing and infuriating to reflect upon the “carnage and cacophony” in which we are seemingly enmeshed. And writing about it? Everyone is writing about it. Social media is awash in it. Yes, actual factual information is vital, but that steady drumbeat of ignorance and arrogance at the center of most news stories today only seems to add to the great wall of negative energy engulfing our universal consciousness, making us act, if you will, as if we were all collectively unconscious.

Thank you, Carl Jung, for allowing me to misappropriate and mangle your theory for my own personal benefit. In my defense, my hope is that whatever bits of positive energy I can contribute to the greater consciousness can only be for the good of the collective universe.

So, here goes:

  • I’m getting a 2 percent raise in my Social Security check next year. That’s good news not only for me, but for millions of others who receive monthly checks (thank you, FDR) and who have not had a raise since 2012 because the government figured inflation wasn’t bad enough and the cost of living wasn’t going up so’s you’d notice. Some of us noticed. I could feel the vibe of 66 million recipients ripple across America when I read the story. It’s the first substantial raise in years. Most recipients are seniors over age 65, but some payments also go to the severely disabled and orphans. The average check is currently $1,377 a month, meaning next year’s increase will raise the typical payment by $27 a month. Listen, it’s a start.
  • We also learned that, despite the devastation Hurricane Maria visited on Puerto Rico, the Arecibo Observatory, made famous in the films “Contact” (Jodie Foster) and “GoldenEye” (Sean Connery), survived with what was called “fixable” damage and no casualties. This is positive news because Arecibo is a star in the search-for-life-in-the-universe universe. The radio telescope,  built in 1963, was the first to find planets around other stars, the first to provide an image of an asteroid and — back to Carl Sagan’s “Contact” — sent the famous Arecibo Message to M13, a cluster of bodies 25,000 light years away. The message informs any sentient beings who receive it who we are and where we live. Send us a text message. Of course, it’ll be at least 50,000 years before we get an answer, but it’s the sending that contributes hope to the universal consciousness. Arecibo’s radar has been called “by far the most sensitive planetary radar in the world” and the folks who fund it — the National Science Foundation — say it does “excellent science.” Alas, in this era of anti-science, an official at NSF says, what with the damage Arecibo did incur, “If you look at the overall sweep of things that we’re funding, we do have to make choices and we can’t keep funding everything that’s excellent.” Perish the thought. So, here’s looking at you, Arecibo, and here’s sending some positive vibes about you into the nearby universe.
  • Staying in Puerto Rico and the notion of doing what you can for the collective good, Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, an alternative energy company, made the initial installment of his promise to restore the island’s power grid with solar energy. San Juan’s Hospital del Niño – a children’s hospital with 3,000 patients — has power again, supplied by a collection of Tesla solar panels in the parking lot. The Tesla Twitter account posted: “Hospital del Niño is first of many solar-storage projects going live. Grateful to support the recovery of Puerto Rico with (Gov.) Ricardo Rossello.” All kinds of positive energy here. Musk, of course, is also the one talking about establishing a colony on Mars and who’s willing to bet against him?
  • In an extraordinary example of quantum positive energy, a  hand-written note by Albert Einstein sold at auction in Jerusalem for $1.56 million. The note was written in November 1922, when Einstein, then 43, was in Japan for a lecture series. While in Tokyo, he learned he’d been awarded the Nobel Prize in physics. When a courier came to his hotel room to make a delivery, Einstein did not have any money to tip him, so he handed the messenger a signed note, written in German: “A calm and humble life will bring more happiness than the pursuit of success and the constant restlessness that comes with it.” A kind of e=mc2 for a peaceful universe. The message was obviously paid forward several times before someone realized what Einstein clearly knew at the time — a bird in the hand (a signed note from a Nobel laureate, say) is worth two (or even more) in the bush.
  • Chris Long, who plays defensive end for the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles, is donating his entire year’s salary to improve educational opportunities in the United States. Long used his first six game checks to provide two scholarships for students in Charlottesville, Va., his hometown. He’s dedicating the remaining 10 to launch the “Pledge 10 for Tomorrow” campaign. “I believe that education is the best gateway to a better tomorrow for EVERYONE in America,” he wrote on Pledge It.  “I’m encouraging fans, businesses and every person with a desire to join in my pursuit of equal education opportunities for all students to make their own pledge.’ He hopes to double his pledge with this collective effort.
  • In a somewhat desperate effort to find some positive news, I typed “good news” in the Google search bar. Voila! The web is awash in other folks looking to add positive energy to the collective consciousness. Duh. Some of the above came from that search. It’s good to remember: We are not alone, even in the private universe of our anxious minds.
  • Speaking of synchronicity, hurry it up, Mueller.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

On Acting My Age … Whatever it Is

Friday, January 16th, 2015

By Bob Gaydos

"New" me, at 73.

“New” me, at 73.

I’m 73 years old. That’s a fact and unless I go to work for Fox News, I am not free to change it to suit my mood. Truth is, I don’t obsess about my age the way some do. Most of the time, I don’t think about it unless someone mentions it.

For example, last summer my partner and I were standing on line at a fix-your-own frozen yogurt establishment called Hoopla! The line of customers extended to the door and it was close to closing time. As I surveyed the offerings, my partner turned to me and said, “Did you notice we’re always the oldest ones in here?” I took a quick look around and told her that, no, I hadn’t and, furthermore, while I thought she certainly didn’t qualify, I was definitely the oldest person in the place.

And I wondered, “How come?” Don’t septuagenarians like frozen yogurt? Look at all the great flavors. And there are all the toppings — pretty much anything you can think of from fruit to nuts to Gummy Bears to complement the delicious frozen treat.

Maybe it’s the do-it-yourself bit, I thought. Or the standing in line. Maybe a lot of older folks don’t like standing in line. It could be the possibility of some messiness. Or maybe it’s just the whole idea of experiencing something new.

It’s my observation, which is open to challenge, that a lot of people of a certain age are not thrilled with trying something new. It’s as if they feel they have lived long enough and done enough. No need to learn anything else. Fixing your own dessert? Way too much trouble.

So, they have flip phones. They don’t text or Google. They barely e-mail. Kindle, schmindle; give ‘em a real book. And not a Facebook. That’s just too confusing … or something. And it’s not just frozen yogurt that they won’t eat: Kale, quinoa and coconut water will never cross their lips. Change is for the young.

I don’t get it. My feeling is, since I have just a limited time here, why not experience as much as I can for as long as I can? I know how easy it can be to slip into a rut of comfortability, even if things in life aren’t so great, even if I’m not in the best of shape. I’ve been there. It’s easy to say, hey, this is OK. I can handle it. I don’t have to worry about learning something new. School’s over. Time to relax. Ain’t retirement grand?

Actually, yes, retirement has been pretty grand. But it’s also not the end of the line.

I shaved my beard and mustache off a few months ago. In the space of a month, only six people noticed. I counted.

One of them was my son, Max, who had a full beard himself at the time. My other son, Zack, noticed that I had also gotten a haircut, which was a typical observation. Other comments ranged from, “You look really tan, Bob” to “Nice haircut,” to “You look good; are you working out?” to “Did you lose weight?”

To which I replied, varyingly, “Thanks.” “Yes.” And, “Hello, I shaved my beard off.”

The beard is now back, although trimmed fairly neatly, and the hair on top is cut short. Also neat. But more importantly for this whole getting older thing, were the other comments about working out and losing weight. They were correct. People noticed and, to be honest, it was nice to hear. The working out regularly, combined with eating a much more healthful diet, coincided with meeting my partner two-and-a-half years ago. More than ever, I don’t believe in coincidences. The result has been a significant weight loss for me and my feeling and looking better — healthier at any rate — at 73 than, dare I say, at 53. So, yeah, retirement is great.

Anyway, as I said, a few people did notice the beard was gone and their comments may be even more telling than the ones I didn’t get:

— “There’s Bob, looking all neat and reputable.”

— “You look so neat and clean.”

— “Now you’re not hiding behind anything.”

Or from anything either. The physical changes have been accompanied by subtle psychological changes, a greater willingness to try new things.

The point of this exercise in vanity, I suppose, is that numerical age doesn’t matter nearly as much as attitude does. That’s nothing new, I know. I just needed to acknowledge it publicly for myself. Just don’t tell me to act my age, because I don’t know what that means.

I am 73. I have a phone that is at least 10 times smarter than I am. I wrote this column on a laptop. I love WiFI. I have a Kindle and have actually read one book on it so far. (Confession: I still prefer the real thing.) I Google and text constantly. I eat yogurt and falafel and sushi and lots of fruits and vegetables. No red meat. I exercise with a growing degree of regularity. All my annual checkup numbers are in the positive range. My doctor says I’m the textbook example of what can happen when you actually follow your doctor’s advice. I kinda liked hearing that, too.

Now, if someone would just explain to me how 3-D printing works …

 

Warning: This Column May Be Bugged

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

By Bob Gaydosstock-photo-eye-spying-trough-a-computer-monitor-85320868

Hi there. Thanks for clicking on this article. I feel obliged to warn you right off that you and I are probably not alone in this seemingly intimate connection. Odds are this interchange is being monitored by some government or private computer for the purpose of, well, maybe for the sole purpose of demonstrating that it can be done.

And it is done, routinely, to anyone and everyone who uses a computer, lap top, tablet or cell phone. Privacy has become a quaint concept, an anachronism, in the computer era. The very tool that has freed us to a world of instant information and communication has also stripped us of something we cherish, our privacy.

Let me amend that. The tool is not to blame. It’s the people using it. They have entered our lives — admittedly often at our initial invitation — to such an extent that savvy technicians can put together accurate profiles of us in short order. Mostly, these people work for private companies that want to sell us something based on our computer behavior. Of course, those with malice in their heart can and do use their skills and the gathered data for nefarious purposes such as identity theft or simply installing a computer virus for no apparent reason.

This is not news to you, I’m sure. What’s perhaps new and most troubling to me is the extent to which our own government is involved in spying on us. Recent revelations by Edward Snowden of a massive cell phone data collection program run by the National Security Agency targeting average American citizens has been followed up with revelations of the extent to which the NSA also has used popular Internet service providers such as Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Bing, AOL, Apple, Facebook and YouTube, to compile information on private citizens.

Why?

Why national security, of course. There could very well be potential terrorists lurking out there among those cute cat photos and it is part of our eternal war on terrorism to try to find them among the billions of clicks per day on computers.

That’s the company line and there is a small element of truth in it. But we can’t assess how valuable the snooping has been because the government (the White House and Congress) won’t tell us anything that can be verified by uninvolved parties. (And the head of the CIA lies to Congress without getting fired.)

Mostly, though, I have come to believe (and this is why I warn you this column may be bugged) that our government snoops do this kind of thing because they can and they really don’t see it is an invasion of privacy and most certainly do not consider the massive potential for abuse it presents. This is scary. When the computer spies forget that they, too, are American citizens and also suffer from any erosion of individual privacy along with the rest of us, the slippery slope to total control of the citizenry has begun. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness lose their meaning.

Too alarmist?

Well, consider the reaction of President Obama when Snowden subsequently revealed that the United States was snooping on countries in the European Union and elsewhere. These are our friends, mind, our allies. The EU folks erupted with indignant surprise. They were outraged, etc. Obama said, in effect, what’s the big deal? Everybody does it.

Which is in large part true. The EU huffing and puffing was largely for show. They knew they were bugged and some of them also bugged official United States locations for the purpose of … what?

The nonchalant nature of the practice on an international scale bespeaks an inability and/or unwillingness to trust friends at their word or to get some kind of edge on them in international diplomacy. So I ask, why would this attitude not translate into domestic spying? It’s no big deal. Everybody does it. National security, you know? Trust us, we mean you no harm.

Really? Well then, why is the entire process sealed in secrecy, with a special court granting rubber stamp warrants for the government bugging private citizens? Why is the court answerable to no one in the public? Why are its rulings free from challenge? Why are private contractors (Snowden was one), not actual government employees, given access to such highly classified information? What happens to the data collected on U.S. citizens who turn out to be really just “average” Americans connecting with friends or venting frustration on Facebook? Why are most of our political leaders focusing on Snowden’s release of “classified” data rather than on the enormity of the spying effort on private citizens?

And why should we not be concerned that instructions are available on line on how to turn computer cameras (yes, Skype, too) and cell phone cameras into devices that can spy on their owners, a weapon that obviously could be used by serious government computer spies? And probably is. (Put tape over the lens without actually touching it. Shut it off in the bedroom.)

We “average citizens” have definitely been complicit in creating this situation, but most of were also a bit naïve: I have nothing to hide, so why should I worry about putting personal information on line? That may have been a valid view at one time, but it ignored the reality that those with a certain amount of power inevitably seek to expand their power.

Our government is supposed to protect us from this. When it is the offending party, we need to challenge it. We have no choice. We must do this peaceably, but vigorously, through public demonstrations (as the Occupy movement tried), petitions, messages to elected officials, support for candidates who want to shine light on such programs and eliminate abuses, rejection of candidates who support the spying, protest to and boycott of companies that cooperate with spying efforts, And by voicing opinions of protest on line.

Which is where I came in. Thanks for reading this. Don’t bother deleting; Big Brother already knows you were here.

bob@zestoforange.com

Where Have You Gone, Joe DiMaggio?

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

The Yankee Clipper

…and other (hopefully) thought-provoking questions

 By Bob Gaydos

  • We’ll start with the summer’s top puzzler: Soft ice cream or soft frozen yogurt? They say one is healthier for you, but this is obviously a matter of taste and mine leans to the ice cream most of the time. Maybe a strawberry shortcake sundae with soft vanilla, whipped cream, sponge cake, strawberry syrup, etc. But a friend of mine swears by the black raspberry frozen yogurt at Scoops in Pine Bush. Of course, they put chocolate chips in it. Maybe that‘s what makes it better for you.
  • Coke or Pepsi? Most people, from my observation, still prefer and say, “Coke” when asked. So how come waitresses at every diner in the area then ask you, “Is Pepsi OK?” Sure it’s OK. But it’s not Coke. What the heck happened to the Coke salesman?
  • Google or Yahoo? Not to be harsh, but why bother with Yahoo? Really. And what the heck is Bing?
  • Mac or PC? I’ve got a PC; both my sons have Macs. They love theirs; I may get one some day. I fully expect us all to be doing everything on a tablet in the not-so-distant future. Even cooking.
  • Egg and cheese sandwiches made on a grill in a deli or the pre-fab Styrofoam “eggs” served up in fast-food places? OK, we all agree on this one.
  • Obamacare or No Care? After campaigning relentlessly against the constitutionally acceptable Affordable Care Act with a slogan of “Repeal and Replace,” Republicans have conceded that they have no actual plan with which to replace it, in the unlikely case they actually did repeal it. They should just ask Mitt Romney to retool the plan he introduced in Massachusetts.
  • Jeter or Reyes? … What’s that? That’s not a question anymore? Sorry.
  • Designated hitter or unathletic pitchers trying to not hurt themselves at bat? You can deduce my vote. With fulltime inter-league play next year, the DH in both leagues is the only thing that makes sense. So they won’t do it.
  • If you read a book on a Nook, is it a book or a Nook? And does that apply to Dr. Seuss?
  • Really, what the heck is a Bing?
  • I text. All the time. Only way my kids will talk to me. But has anybody under 25 noticed that it’s still a lot quicker and more efficient to actually talk to the other person? Honestly …
  • Does anybody “get” Twitter? Am I a twit if I don’t tweet? Speaking of twits, should I care what Ocho Cinco had for lunch?
  • Whether pot is legal or not, do the SUNY trustees actually think they can make every SUNY campus smoke-free in two years without putting half the students on probation?
  • Which is the more dangerous job: Catching alligators (crocodiles?) bare-handed; driving tractor trailers on narrow, ice-covered roads or repossessing Subarus? I’m betting on the repossessing.
  • When did the above become entertainment?
  • And who did put the ram in the ramalamadingdong?
  • Isn’t it true that every item on the Taco Bell menu consists of the same items, mixed in different combinations and given different names?
  • Can we find that answer on Bing?
  • Wouldn’t it be more popular if they named it Bong?
  • Does anybody remember Frick and Frack? No? No sweat, I looked it up on Yahoo: “Frick and Frack is for any two people who are closely linked in some way, especially through a work partnership.

“The origin is from a famous partnership of Swiss comedy ice skaters, Werner Groebliand Hans Mauch,   whose stage names these were. They came to public fame in the later years of a series of skating spectaculars called Ice Follies, promoted by Eddie Shipstad and his brother Roy, which began in 1936 and ran for almost 50 years. Their association lasted so long, and they were at one time so well known, that their names have gone into the language.

“Michael Mauch, the son of Hans, told me in a personal message about the origin of their names: ‘Frick took his name from a small village in Switzerland; Frack is a Swiss-German word for a frock coat, which my father used to wear in the early days of their skating act. They put the words together as a typical Swiss joke.’ ” Now don’t say you never learn anything when you read my column.

  • What is the current fascination with tattoos, or body art, if you prefer? Maybe the NBA commissioner can answer this one.
  • And by the way, why can’t Democrats defend their man (Obama) with the same fervor with which Republicans attack him? Don’t they care if he loses?
  • How Much Wood Would a Woodchuck Chuck if a Woodchuck Would Chuck Wood? Oops, sorry, that’s not a question, it’s a new show on the History Channel.
  • If I tweet that, will some twit think it’s funny?
  • … and what about Naomi?

Now don’t be bashful, please. I would really appreciate comments, answers, jibes and japes (look it up on Bing) on any of the above. This is supposed to be an interactive medium, so interact, please. At the very least it will me make me feel good and at the most I may be able to get another column out of the replies. Isn’t that worth interacting?

PS: If you don’t know the Joe DiMaggio answer, look up Paul Simon. And shame on you.

Bob@zestoforange.com

 

Beware Nibiru, the Death Planet

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

Look! Up in the sky! Our ancestors.

By Bob Gaydos

So, you know about Nibiru, right? Planet X?

Why are you giving me a blank stare? Nibiru. Or maybe you prefer Elenin. C’mon, it’s this freaky big planet hiding behind the sun that’s supposed to crash into Earth in December of 2011 killing us all. It’s all over the Internet, man. Don’t you ever watch YouTube?

This thing is so big and so scary that NASA and Google have formed a conspiracy to hide the information from us. They don’t want us to know when the end of the world is coming because, well, that’s part of the conspiracy, too.

I can understand your confusion. I am embarrassed to admit that I hadn’t heard of Nibiru either until about a week ago when my son, Zack, and I were watching TV. Something, perhaps some power of suggestion implanted in him hundreds of years ago by aliens, compelled him to ask me: “You know about that, right? That planet that’s supposed to hit the Earth?”

“Uh, no. How do you know this?”

“It’s on YouTube.“

‘‘Oh. And how do you know it’s true?” (Force of habit.)

“There’s a black rectangle on GoogleSky where it’s supposed to be.”

“So it’s a conspiracy?”

“Uh huh.”

(Disclaimer for Zack: He is a very bright 17-year-old with a particularly sadistic sense of humor on occasion. He will go right for your weak spot. Ergo: “How do you know it’s true?” “It’s all over the Internet.”

Of course, it is. David Morrison, a planetary astronomer at NASA and senior scientist at the NASA Astrobiology Institute, estimates that there are 2 million websites discussing Nibiru. It has been the source of countless wasted hours as people either expanded the hoax or wasted precious time trying to convince believers it was nonsense.

For the life of me, after four-plus decades in journalism, I still don’t get people’s attraction for conspiracy theories, the wilder the better. One of my operating principles has always been that the more complex, outrageous the theory being proposed, the simpler the probable answer: It’s about money; it’s about sex; it’s about fear/ignorance. It’s B.S.

So, personally, I am inclined to accept NASA’s statement that there is no mysterious planet hurtling to Earth because they — or one of the millions of other humans who scan the night skies with really good telescopes would have seen it by now. And I accept Google’s explanation that the blank spot on its sky photo was the result of technical problems involving one of their many source for the data. I add credence to this explanation by also accepting the argument that, since GoogleSky is a picture of the actual sky, anyone could simply go outside, look through their telescope at the area in question and see what was there and take their own picture. Apparently no one has thought of doing this.

Simple, common sense explanations.

I also subscribe to the late Carl Sagan’s principle that “extraordinary claims demand extraordinary levels of evidence if they are to be believed.”

And the claims about Nibiru are nothing if not extraordinary. Still, I ventured relatively objectively into the Internet universe to research the subject until I stumbled on the origin of the Nibiru story.

In a nutshell: The doomsday scenario of collision with another planet was first described in 1995 by Nancy Lieder, a self-described “contactee.” She claims to be able to receive messages through an implant in her brain from aliens in the Zeta Reticuli star system. She says she was chosen to warn mankind of an impending planetary collision which would wipe out humanity in May 2003. Oh yeah, this catastrophe was supposed to happen eight years ago, but when it didn’t, the doomsday fans looked around and found the Mayan calendar prediction of a 2012 cataclysmic end. Convenient, no?

Lieder gave the planet the name “Planet X,” which astronomers traditionally reserve for planets yet undiscovered. She further attached it to a popular book, “The Twelfth Planet,” which pinned the Nibiru story on ancient Sumerians, who supposedly believed humans evolved on Nibiru and stopped briefly on Earth to colonize it.

At this point, I was becoming somewhat less objective. I found more support for the Nibiru theory on websites that also wrote about extraterrestrials, the Illuminati, mind control, Freemasons, the matrix, and other prophecies. The constant theme was that, despite its size, no one could see Nibiru — and thus prove its existence — because of a grand conspiracy by government and science (and apparently Google) to hide it from us, to what end I still cannot fathom.

I leave it to psychologists to explain why some people feel the need to create grand hoaxes and conspiracy theories and why so many more people feel the need to believe them. I suppose it makes life more interesting, but I’m a “keep it simple stupid” kind of guy. Plus — and this is just between you and me — I know the U.S. government has a massive, secret, anti-alien unit that will make toast of Nibiru. It’s under the Denver Airport. Zack saw it on YouTube.

bob@zestoforange.com