It Seemed Worth Saying

Long overdue update/roundup of the events of the last year or so. Those who follow along regularly will no doubt be familiar with much of this material, but today’s recollections will be delicately adorned with details gleaned thru the perspective of time. I’m pretty sure it’d be labeled as a sermon if I was in one of those lunatic cults. And no, I’m not denigrating religion just because they haven’t formed one around me yet! I’m in a college town now. Let me think…if I grow a beard and quit pulling errant hairs out of my ears I WOULD look more properly prophetic. Hmmm. But I digress.

I’ve been here awhile now. Year and a half? In that zone. Two winters and one summer. Second summer staring me right in the face. To those of you who watched me scratch and claw my way here, those of you who helped, those of you who just rode along on my social media clown car, I salute you. Getting here to The Free People’s Republic in the time and manner I did involved crazy insane stupid risks that could have gone horribly awry at so many different levels, but didn’t. Any honest accounting of the many possible pitfalls will require an advance in quantum computing. So if you ask me if it was worth it of course I’ll answer in the affirmative because everything ended up going affirmatively well. At least in the aggregate.

Colorado is everything I remember it being, memories built from both a youthful summer spent in Loveland to my early adult career in the Air Force in Colorado Springs. Everything good that I remember about Colorado is just as it was, only better. There is a catch. The fly in the ointment. It’s an expensive place to live because so many people want to live here. If I wasn’t a fabulously radiant young widower making his abode in a 93 Dodge Minivan, my bon vivant lifestyle, let alone time for musings upon it would be nil. I live on squat and I live well on it. I didn’t realize what an art form that really is but I’ve always harbored an inner confidence of my artistic ability, at least in the Autism-Alzheimer’s spectrum. I’m pretty sure I got at least a little bit of both of those going on by now.

I miss my dog. I miss my wife. All in all. I’m still loving life.

Enjoy.

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Endangered Species

jesusswitch

Don’t let the confluence of the headline picked, juxtaposed against the background of the graphic chosen, mislead you into assuming this is a post reflecting on the diminishing popularity of religion or the shrinking cadre of pedophile priests. Those are not lamentable losses like the actual subject of today’s discourse.

Kissing Your Switches Goodbye

This post is an ode to my love of switches. They will never truly be gone as long as there are those of us dedicated to keeping their memories alive.

If fantasies of wild west shoot outs drove the desires of such notable Americans as Ralphie into an unquenchable lust for a Red Ryder BB gun, it was the lights, bells, buzzers and switches in the early electronics era that propelled many a young lad into a lifelong love of electronics (computers & space).

In my youth we watched the Buck Rogers Channel (/s) and pictured ourselves as the lab-coated technicians tinkering with a fascinating array of electro-mechanical devices, almost always in an attempt to solve the ultimate questions of existence or at a bare minimum, kill the monster. It was a job that could only be accomplished by a highly competent switch-turner or button-pusher. Many a poor laborers son were lured into the promises of a button pushing, back saving future and proceeded to follow an educational path consistent with that scenario. Well I can’t testify as to the veracity of “many”, but it was certainly true in my case, and statistics bear out the rush to math and science in the late fifties and early sixties, so it’s a safe assumption I wasn’t unique in regard to the opportunity presented.

Getting Acquainted With Switches

Some general rules on the hierarchy of switches: The best switches always light up when they are activated. Rocker switches are more high tech than simple lever (pictured above) switches. Big ass switches, like those used on industrial circuit breakers have their own special gravitas. Covered or protected switches like those used in self destruct scenarios are the undeniable Billy Badass of all switches. Highest honors go to those in the latter category which are also highlighted by some form of protection warning graphics, often in the format of yellow police crime scene tape.

Danger Will Robinson Danger

Cinematic Law of Computational Equivalency

The more confusing and crowded any randomly assembled melee of blinking lights, assorted switches and hypnotic panel graphics appears on camera, the more powerful the computer. Size matters. It was a precursor to Moore’s Law, only for cinematic computer purposes. Real computers of the day were actual behemoths, affording wide latitude to fertile imaginations Hollywood set designers. As you can see in the photo below (a 50’s look at what a home computer might look like) they were extremely complicated looking bits of steampunk. Is that a ships steering wheel in the lower left, or is there a ’57 Chevy missing it’s steering wheel out there somewhere? And why is that steering wheel looking thingamabob there in the first place? If I didn’t know any better I’d suspect this was a contemporary photo of the logistics control room of a Carnival Cruise liner.

A three hour tour

Switch History in the Twentieth Century

In the sixties era, back when Siri was just as much a fantasy as Roomba Rosie the talking robot maid on The Jetsons, switches ruled the day.

The lowly electric switch, born in the century of Edison’s light bulb, dominated the control circuit market in the century to follow. Reconstituted in many elaborate forms over the next half century, the magnetic control contact relays of the 1960’s Bell telephone system showcased the epitome of mechanical switch integration into our high tech lifestyles.

rotary dial

Even as the computer era continued to encroach upon us, the era of the switch looked keen to prosper into the next generation. A quick glance at the first home computer ever offered for sale, the Altair 8800, belies the fact that switches would soon be going the way of the dinosaurs.

altair_8800_front

It’s kind of hard to imagine what a big deal just having a keyboard was for people back in the late 1970’s. From the introduction of the Altair in 1975 to the introduction of keyboards was a short few years. It was a net wash for the fate of switches, with the confusing array of programming switches shown above merely shifted to a more convenient arrangement in the form of a QWERTY keyboard. Keyboards actually pumped a shot of adrenaline into the product life cycle of switches, but they’re now in rapid decline. Their ghosts still haunt the virtual QWERTY keyboard layout on your smart devices.

ipad-split-keyboard

The Coming End for my little Friends

This ultimately brings me around to the leap of technology that is ultimately killing my beloved switches. The ubiquitous cheap ability to put an entire computer in the place a single mechanical switch and then use it for something inane like simple on/off touch control (soft switching).

I’m reasonably certain there will be at least a few switches that last long enough for my aging bony fingers to cling to, but I would bet that a baby born today won’t have any memory of switches by the time he/she gets old enough to scope out the most popular hair care products in his/her peer group.

The future youth of the world need only know one switch, and that isn’t even assured. Which one? The power switch. After that you’ll just be talking to your devices. Are you ready? For what it’s worth, Siri and Google Voice already have me enunciating like a sixth grade English student as I valiantly attempt to get my device to comprehend my southern infected Yankee dialect. The fact that it works more often than not already, has given me the confidence to broadcast this glimpse into the immediate future as a near certainty and not just a rambling delusional vision of the sort offered by Harold Camping.

Enjoy

Dimensional Analysis

dandelion-wish

I can’t be the only person on the planet who is susceptible to being hypnotically transfixed by the motion and dispersion of things like dust, seeds, snow and ash.

Seeds

I suspect my particular awe for the visible suspension and movements of heavier than air particles may have been exacerbated early in my youth, when it was easy to lose oneself on the wings of an errant dandelion seed gently floating in the window, instead of fully embracing the return to classes at the secession of summer vacation.

Snow

As the days shortened and the chill set in, the wind-swept American prairies around longitude Omaha and latitude Interstate 80 are a vast stage for snow to dance on. Many winter days were spent watching the snow twist and swirl, in direct violation of my teacher’s desired wishes to memorize the five stages of cell division or learn the proper conjugation of Spanish verbs.

Pollen and Dust

Spring unleashes a mostly invisible universe of pollens, though while living down south, I endured the annual waves of yellow-tinged tree jizz (from Mississippi’s mono-cultured loblolly pines) wafting through the air and choking the local atmosphere with a veracity not seen since the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s (For my expanding Anglican readership, substitute the Great Smog of ’52).

Adding to the hypnotic sui generis of the threatening yellow clouds, are honey bees, whose abdomens are overburdened with the sudden windfall of pollen. Looking as bloated as Elvis a week before his last unfortunate trip to the loo, many have trouble even keeping airborne with their bounty.  The ones forced to stagger home walking, looking like Mel Gibson after a late night encounter at a police checkpoint, are the lucky ones.  Those managing to keep themselves aloft are unwittingly involving themselves in a real life version of Angry Birds-Hunger Games edition, and the bee eating birds are busting a gut nearly as big as the bees.  Whoever says you can’t watch evolution in action must be Ray Comfort, but I digress.

Perhaps the most transfixing of the group of dazzlingly suspended particles are the smoke and ash selections.

Ash

I have a special fondness for the tiniest bits of solitary suspended ash.  Nearly invisible to the naked eye, their joyous arrival is often announced only as a brief tiny glint, as delicate as the soft twinkle of a faint star . Once identified, they can then be individually tracked if one is lucky enough to quickly triangulate their original location.  Like dandelion seeds, they often move very slowly (at least the ones you can track) and hang in midair suspended by the most gentle of currents.  The battle between loft and gravity is never more intriguing than when you get to watch it mano v mano in this fashion.

Smoke

When my mom finally decided it was time I could handle it, I negotiated the privilege of watching my first SciFi horror show on TV.  It was an original episode of The Outer Limits.  The details of her agreeing to letting me watch it included a discussion over “real life” and “TV fantasy” as well as my promise not to have nightmares if she let me watch.  Upon reflection, that would appear to be a promise one might have a real problem in keeping, but it seems to be the in the nature of motherhood to believe nearly any promise emanating from their progeny.

It was a cold winter night.  As if to enhance the gloom, the eerie grayish glow of the large black and white cathode ray tube was the only light in the room.  I laid in a prone position tucked on the sofa next to my mother as we shared a hand-crocheted blanket to ward off the drafts (and for me at the time….monsters.  lol).

As was her custom, my mother had an unfiltered Pall Mall cigarette burning in the ashtray emitting copious amounts of bluish smoke into the room (and setting the stage for my long term addiction to nicotine).  The episode of Outer Limits she’d agreed to let me see centered around a set and story involving the use of ground hugging fog.  The blue smoke from my mom’s cigarette migrated into the thin boundary layer created by the differential in temperature between the warm ceiling and cold floor, finally settling in at a level consistent with the bottom of the picture tube and creating the conditions for a perfect mirage as I laid on the sofa parallel to the TV.

My active imagination quickly embraced the idea that the fog had left the TV set and starting engulfing the room, my room!  To heighten my increasing sense of self inflicted panic and confusion, the light from the TV was in a perfect position to reflect off the underlying azure haze of the cigarette smoke and was casting ghastly dancing reflections about the room as the show cut from scene to scene.  I was freaking out (internally) worse than Ralphie on A Christmas Story, right after catching the inevitable BB in the eye.  My brain was looking for answers.  I’m wondering why my mother hasn’t yet keyed in on what I surmise to be an eminent takeover by hostile alien forces.  Is she asleep?  No, she looks like she’s awake. The veins in her neck are relaxed.  The details of my ultimate decision not to go into a maniacal screaming panic on a search through my toy box for my ultimate alien destroyer gun (red ping pong balls) escapes me.  It is lost in the adrenaline and fear of the moment, but I know I made the right choice in hunkering down and riding it out to the commercial break.  Mom always told me I was special and I believed her.

Enjoy.

Hyperlinking Down Memory Lane

Part one of a special hyperlink trip down The Tim Times memory hole, made possible by the Internet Archive. using their web archival search engine, aka The WaybackMachine. If not for the courage of that fearless crew, The Tim Times would almost certainly be lost.

The Adventure Begins

I figured it might be fun to look back at the history and development of my website over the last decade.  My online scribblings begin somewhat earlier than 2001, but that is the earliest I can document via the WaybackMachine at this time.  I cannot explain my early fascination (nor my present obsession) with blogging, but it seems to serve as both a way of preserving my ephemeral experiences as well as a vehicle for practicing and improving my personal writing and blogging skills.  I have invested a lifetime acquiring a broad category of expertise in a wide range of subjects, and then blogging it into the sui generis salad you see in your browsers today.

A Blog is Born

My first foray into what is now called blogging began using server space provided by my original internet service provider back in the 1990’s.  My web address included the very clumsy inclusion of a tilde symbol in the URL, making it an obnoxious blotch of a thing to try to easily disseminate.  All web posting was done through FTP protocols, and all web design was primitive.  Bandwidth dribbled.  Lack of blog management software exacerbated an already complex process.  Particularly challenging to me was the proper archiving of old posts and display of new blog posts.  Each new blog update was so difficult to incorporate properly into my existing mix, that it limited my ability to update my blog.  Databases?  Fuhgeddaboudit.

Then, along came Pyra Labs with the very blog management solution I needed.  I was blogging on Pyra Labs software long before Google bought them in 2003.  As early as 2001, I was an already an official dot commie, self-hosting my own web domain at http://www.thetimtimes.com.

The Tim Times 2001:

From top to bottom.

The Birth of a Logo

My home-made logo incorporated a silhouette profile that obscured my radiant youthful beauty ( I didn’t want to be successful just for my ruggedly handsome good looks) and doubled as a link to an actual profile photo of me (that fully supports my self assessment.  The Gravatar-ready silhouette portion of the header served as my online avatar until I replaced it with the caricature than Bob Pennebaker drew for me.  Here is Bob working his magic in a YouTube video.

My Profile Picture

There’s just enough of a touch of gray in my hair to exude the proper gravitas necessary to be taken seriously, but the carnival background belies my true spirit.

The Birth of a Slogan

I coined the phrase: Sensibility Without the Static to use as my web slogan.

The Forum

This was a link to a long abandoned forum that I set up back then.  Those were the days when having your own web forum was sorta like having a mini-Facebook.  It was also another way of offering a web service that was outsourced to a free third party provider.

The Nasa Moon Hoax

Given the “tinfoil hat” nature of the early internet, is it any wonder that this link got the most traffic of any of my early on-line postings?  Click the link or the graphic to see evidence I presented to back up my claim that NASA faked the moon landings.

The Blogs

Those permanent links running down the left hand side of the page allowed me to incorporate the features of automated Pyra blogging without having to update my website (via FTP), while simultaneously adding a nice stylish column design to my site.

My early attempts at site branding are obvious in my selection of blog names.  I still have all those early blogs. and I often tag posts these days using #timplates for food and #timages (or #timpix) for photos.

Since most all my actual content was being hosted by Pyra, my homepage loaded like lightning, even in the days of “Timmy and the Tin-Can telephone” internet speeds.

Animated Graphics

       

I embraced the visual panache that animated gifs brought to web design, but I used only a few small ones to keep my page-loads fast.

Missing Antler Publishing

Version of logo I plan to use when I go into the retail book writing business.  “Antler” is an amalgamation of last names. Mine, and an early writing collaborator friend from high school, John Antolik, who was killed (re: “Missing”) working his way through college at a factory job.

End part one.

Stay tuned (subscribe) so you won’t miss Part Two of  the series wherein The Tim Times continues the move towards the big time.

Enjoy.