A Life, Through Computers

The following post originally appeared on Geek Force Network, August 16, 2013.


The other day, a short post appeared on Kotaku titled “Explaining Microsoft Windows’ Evolution Is Simple” that featured this image uploaded by Twitter by user @kataoka_k.

windowshouses

It made me chuckle, and it made me feel ancient. As the post and some commenters point out, this “history” omits a few operating systems like DOS, Windows 1, 2, and 3, and Windows ME. I’ve not used all these systems, but I’ve been exposed to most of them throughout my life either at home, school, or work. But my personal history with computers dates from before even DOS, when I learned to program in BASIC on our TRS-80 Color Computer.

If it doesn't look like it could do much, well, that's because it didn't.
If it doesn’t look like it could do much, well, that’s because it didn’t.

The TRS-80 was nicknamed “Trash-80” for good reason — it wasn’t much of a computer.   I mean, I liked it, but I was kinda young then. Oh yes, I can see it now…that dull, gray, boxy complexion, replete with small, square keys in rich, foggy-colored plastic with deep onyx imprinted letters and numbers.  And what of those itty bitty keys, filled with playful, independent spirits mingling among the electronic underpinnings! Why you made typing so, so…unique!  Did you just type a “p” or a “q”?  Well, let’s say you typed a “2″ and leave it at that. How jovial! The accompanying cassette player and its graceful if incessant whirring – it made a game out of recording!  How much force is needed to push the button today?  Only by trying and failing and trying again and failing again will you find out!

In my world, the TRS-80 was good for only two things: playing simple games like checkers (shut up about the fact that we did have an actual board with pieces) and writing BASIC programs. The computer didn’t come with a monitor, so we had it hooked up to the TV — a color television set nonetheless!  Oh man, and did I make that screen turn colors! Cyan, you were always my favorite.~

cyan
Pretty, on computers. Not clothing.

From the TRS-80, my parents quickly progressed to DOS and Windows machines; and for awhile, those were my primary gaming devices. (It was the only time in my life that I could truthfully claim to be a PC gamer. Also nobody did their homework on a computer, silly.) Meanwhile at school, I swear we were using Commodore 64’s for the longest time. In high school I took a programming class where I worked, for the first time, on an Apple computer – the Macintosh. I’ll tell you, I was terrible at programming, but I did like those Macintoshes. Yes, their screens were teensy weensy compared to the monstrous 15 inches of CRT monitor I had at my house, but they were spry machines with very little lag. The programs we created worked so smoothly and the interface was clean and simple.

When time came for college, I was sent off without a computer – why that’s just crazy talk! —  because mobile computing then was a thing for high-class business people in their stupid suits and ties, not poor, lowly, yet much cooler college students. Instead, I had a shiny, new electronic, Smith Corona word processing typewriter. Oh you can laugh if you want, but I got a good many assignments done on it AND there was no white-out or correction tape needed. And…

…okay, fine…go ahead and laugh.

It kinda looked like this, and it was just as sad. I mean happy! But sad. (source)
It kinda looked like this, and it was just as sad. I mean happy! But sad.

Speaking of college, I did end up having regular access to some pretty nice computers during that time. After my freshman year, my electronic typewriter was nearly banished because I did most of my work in the lab, using a new thing called the “Internet” on a fresh, white batch of Windows 95 PCs. That was a nice OS; it worked well for my purposes and was robust enough to handle whatever we threw at it. The first computer I ever owned after college was a Windows 95 machine. And yes, it was a brick, large and heavy, suitable enough to serve as a deadly weapon.

Meanwhile our household technology grew by leaps and bounds. In just a span of a few years, we had gathered up a number of machines: a Windows 98 machine was quickly and unfortunately replaced by a Windows ME machine, which was thankfully replaced by a Windows XP machine as soon as it could be afforded. We still have the XP machine running today, and only recently has it begun to show its age. But it still works like a charm, even if we could watch a full-length movie in the span it takes the thing to boot.

WinXP
Like a gentle giant, only it eats less.

Several years ago, I made the mistake of getting a Windows Vista laptop. It was only intended as a home office computer – word processing, emails, and Internet. But its “security” interface was ridiculous and annoying, and it seemed to be constantly bogged down running some program or another. And forget about trying to run Norton scans or some such – those could render the thing useless for hours!

My current laptop runs Windows 8 – only every now and again do I regret having made the upgrade from Windows 7. I don’t mind the “tiles” interface but I also don’t use it much, instead favoring the regular desktop. As tempted as I am to use the Vista laptop under a short table leg, I have to keep it because Windows 8 isn’t compatible with everything, and that’s problematic. Case in point, not long ago I sought to update my old Android phone. The only way to do this was with a computer and some downloaded software.  Without reading the fine print, I stuck the necessary program onto my Windows 8 machine and attempted to run it; and each time it failed. After thinking that my phone was at fault, I took a closer look at the software’s specs. Nowhere was Windows 8 listed as compatible. So I went through the same process using the Vista machine, and…success!! Oh, Vista hated being made to work as it chugged along with the program, but it still worked. Hmmm…maybe I could update that laptop to Windows 7…

“Of course, who has a dining room table anymore?”

The following post originally appeared on Geek Force Network, May 9, 2014.


Hmmm…good question. A strange yet intriguing one. It was uttered during a conversation we recently had with a professional framer about hanging pictures . She was talking about proper height at which to hang certain types of framed art, mirrors, etc. Such thoughts had never passed my mind before when accomplishing such a task other than: does the picture fit? Yes? Good. No? Move it elsewhere.  But she discussed all sorts of things to consider, from windows and glare to wall heights and other objects in the room to perspective. That’s where the dining room came in – perspective. Would people be viewing the picture standing or seated, like in a dining room? A formal dining room, presumably.

Continue reading ““Of course, who has a dining room table anymore?””

Whatcha gonna do with that history degree?

The following post original appeared on Geek Force Network, July 5, 2013. And that sucks. Not the site, but the fact that I’m even older now. ACK?!


I realized the other day that this year marks 20 years since I ended high school and began college. 20 years?!  Um, ick. And where the hell did the all that time go? [Sigh.] Because nostalgia is a bitch (that I surely love), of course my college beginnings have filtered back into my mind. Ahhhh….those days. Those days when was I cast into the “real world” and treated like an “adult.” Those days where I had the freedom to screw up and around in ways I never imagined. Those years of having to make decisions without really thinking of the consequences. Those years where guidance about college majors and jobs was never really guided, but rather was mostly left up to my own devices and sometimes poor choices. I certainly didn’t follow a yellow brick road to my current job, and I definitely didn’t think that acing a few high school history classes would ever lead to something bigger.

Continue reading “Whatcha gonna do with that history degree?”

Sisters are doing it for themselves (whether you like how they’re doing it is another story)

With the Women’s March on Washington happening this weekend, it only seems appropriate that I share a little lady love, here through the eternal language of music. The following post originally appeared on Geek Force Network, August 30, 2013. The images have been replaced with videos.


So everyone’s done talking about the 2013 Video Music Awards? Well that’s good because I don’t want to talk about them either… … though…okay, I have to admit that I didn’t watch them this past Sunday as I was too busy picking my jaw up off the ground over the events of Breaking Bad. But when I went to check my social network feed Monday morning — hooboy, did the VMAs garner some news. Lady Gaga being gaga, N*Sync being back together, Macklemore being awesome, and Miley Cyrus being all twerky. I appropriated some time that morning to watching videos of the performances and my reactions probably fell in line with most. But what stuck with me after the fact were the women’s performances: Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, and Katy Perry. And I could help but see them in the light of Isaac Newtown’s famous quote (paraphrased): If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants. While each of these performers instill their own levels of art and creativity (take that however you may) into their music and images, they each, again in their own ways, go against the mainstream’s “standard view” of women musicians.  Lady Gaga has been challenging society’s notion of women, beauty, and roles since she first entered the scene. Cyrus has been acting out in ways that very faintly echo (in action only, not musically or message) Wendy O. Williams of the Plasmatics when she yelled a big “eff you” to the vision of the demure songstress.  And Katy Perry’s playfulness, confidence, and take-me-as-I-am attitude sits in stark contrast to say, the bygone days of a young Christiana Aguilera, who went from being a genie in a bottle to being dirrty in a matter of months.

Continue reading “Sisters are doing it for themselves (whether you like how they’re doing it is another story)”

The Only and Most Terrifying Movie for Halloween [full post]

The following post original appeared, in edited form, on Geek Force Network, October 25, 2013. Also reblogged here on October 28, 2013.


After finishing my post from last week, I got it stuck in my head that I should maybe follow up with some sort of post about scary movies. But as I called my own bluff in that post by claiming that I’m not much of a horror movies aficionado, well…that was a dumb thing to do. But the reality is that I’m not, so I don’t even know what I’m complaining about. And even if I had tried to do a post about scary movies, I’d really only have to talk about one. The fucking scariest movie I’ve ever seen:

ARACHNOPHOBIA 

(source)

(P. S. There are spider images ahead, which I can’t even believe I included. Oh, the nightmares I’ll be having…)

Alright, now before you cry foul with your OMGs, LOLs, and WTFs, and go on about how lame this movie is, and how lame spiders are, and how lame I am, just shut the hell up for one thing. Also, let me drill this into your narrow minds – the events that take place in Arachnophobia could really happen.

Oh yeah…you just think about THAT shit for a minute…

Continue reading “The Only and Most Terrifying Movie for Halloween [full post]”

Movies for the Comedic Side of Halloween

The following post originally appeared on Geek Force Network, October 18, 2013.


Every year round this time, as people ring in the spooky days surrounding Halloween with a good horror flick or two, I prepare to watch my own small cache of movies to celebrate the season. While I don’t mind horror movies, they aren’t movies that I regularly seek out. Also I’m not much into being visually terrified, so if I’m going to watch something scary, I’d rather it tend towards comedic or campy horror — the kind of stuff that’s not nightmare-inducing, but rather sends me off to dreamland with giggles and a smile. With that in mind, here’s five movies that I have queued up and ready to watch as the air chills and nighttime spirits come out to play.

P. S. Minor spoilers for older movies ahead, possibly.

*****

Continue reading “Movies for the Comedic Side of Halloween”

This isn’t just a punk rock song: The sounds of Bad Religion

The following post originally appeared on Geek Force Network, August 9, 2013. Some of the video links have been updated.

In life there is music that one likes, music that one dislikes, music that one tolerates enough to not tune out, and music that deeply and  immediately connects with one’s soul. That intimate connection occurred the first time I heard Bad Religion. It didn’t, however, suddenly transform into someone with a pink mohawk, Doc Martens, and a ear full of safety pins – I’ve never been quite so blatant with my hobbies. But after my first BR encounter, I had to have more. Their cerebral music and smart tones spoke to me. I had to know everything I possibly could about this incredible band, their music and their message. And then, of course, I had to know more about punk music. And so began the descent.

For me, Bad Religion served as the perfect gateway into the genre – they’re as intellectual and thoughtful in their music as they are rough and tumble. To those unfamiliar with but curious about BR, the place to start is their first album, How Could Hell be Any Worse?, which contains a particularly poignant and pointed diddy about armageddon. As for singles, “American Jesus” from Recipe for Hate might be their most well-known song. It’s a great song that sits squarely in the middle of their success. But for anyone who wants a quick sampling of some of their offerings before diving into the heady waters, here are six to get you started. (Note that the occasional curse word is flung here and there in their lyrics. Best to not put these songs on blast at the office. Unless your office is totally cool like that.)

*****

“Do What You Want” (Suffer, 1988)

I need not add more glowing praise to the album Suffer than has already been heaped onto it. Simply stated, it’s truly a masterpiece in sound, word, and design. If I could only have one song off this album, it would probably be “Do What You Want.” It’s a quintessential BR song – fast, jarring, and a little sarcastic. Maybe. Is the message really as simple “do what you want, but don’t do it around me?” Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t…

*****

“I Want to Conquer the World” (No Control, 1989)

If I kick the bucket anytime soon, I want this song to be played as my ashes are strewn about the lands. Just thinking about the massive guitars in “I Want to Conquer the World” makes my heart beat a little faster. While it doesn’t have the chant of, say, Pennywise’s “Bro Hymn,” it’s the best BR to sing (or yell) along with. Because who doesn’t want to conquer the world? Seriously, play this song and give “I want to conquer the world!” your all. You’ll totally feel better afterwards.

*****

“Anesthesia” (Against the Grain, 1990)

The best bands are able to combine both outward and inward lyrics; and the really great ones make you question which are which. I’ve read that “Anesthesia” is about Charles Manson. I’ve also read that it’s about heroin addiction. I would tend to side with the latter idea here, but I don’t really know. All I know is that mystery and melody combine into one hell of a song.

*****

“No Direction” (Generator, 1992)

If you know this song, can you pick out the one word that lead singer Greg Graffin changed in the lyrics in this recent live performance? (The guys of BR certainly aren’t slouches when it comes to pop culture, ha!) To me, “No Direction” sums up the single most important message of BR (if they have a message to tell, that is): follow yourself not the “leader.” And the whole “tell ’em” bridge might be one of the best climaxes in a BR song, or in any song, ever.

*****

“A Streetkid Named Desire” (The New America, 2000)

The New America marks one a several departures in sound that BR has taken over the years; and it’s a great album that’s both political and personal. “A Streetkid Named Desire” tells the very relatable of growing up as an outsider. It’s perfect song for when you’re feeling out of sorts or can’t seem progress over a rut. I like this song in tandem with All’s “I’ll Get There,” because, as Graffin says, “I know that paradise is some other place, and I’ll get there another day.”

*****

“Sorrow” (The Process of Belief, 2002)

What exactly is “Sorrow” about? War? Family relationships? A story from the Bible? There are several different ways to interpret this song, which is what makes it one of my favorite off The Process of Belief. There’s a bit of melancholy imbued in the lyrics, which is offset by the driving harmonies. As much as I like the quick, in-and-out of a one minute punk song, sometimes a little more time is needed to tell a story. BR knows exactly when a little more is just enough; and “Sorrow” is a great example of this.

*****

So now that I’ve sounded off, it’s your turn. If you’re a Bad Religion fan, what’s your favorite song or album? If not, have you experienced “love at first listen” with a particular song or artist?

Mash This!

The following post originally appeared on Geek Force Network, July 25, 2014.


“Have you heard this crazy song?” the driver said to us sitting in the backseat of his car.

He slowly turned up the volume and yelled “It’s pretty awesome!” For moment all I could hear was the familiar “duh duh duh duuuh” rhythm of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony. It took a moment for Kayne West’s “Gold Digger” to register. And as I listened further, I realized that I wasn’t listened to Beethoven’s classic wasn’t playing at all, but rather it was “A Fifth of Beethoven,” a less than favorite off of an otherwise great album, Saturday Night Fever.

The song concluded and our friend asked “Pretty cool, huh?”

Someone in the car responded “What was that?”

“A mashup,” came the simple answer, followed by “this station plays them all the time.”

And so it began.

Continue reading “Mash This!”