Sunday, May 19, 2013

Are We Becoming a World According to Google?

A recent article on CNN referenced Google expanding the capability of Maps. I use Maps. Not a great deal, it is handy when my wife doesn't know a yard sale location, or if we have to travel to a site we've not visited before. I've used it to check out travel routes, even though I know the way by heart just to see if a more direct or convenient route has opened up. I can find where a friend has moved to, or if I wanted to visit them how far would I have to travel. I find the response and convenience astounding and to me it has a very practical application.

However, this article referred to the idea that Google was expanding the Map software to become an interactive software that will record your inquiries and suggest points of interest, restaurants, etc according to your queries. Sounds nice, I might like to know what restaurants are nearby a place I am going to visit. However, over time the data base will be full of my travel, my exploration on line, my preferences, my likes and dislikes. In short the data assembled will form a pretty complete picture of who I am, what I do, where I go, and a whole host of personal information. 

We already have huge amounts of data stored in data bases out in the cloud, now we shall have another type of data. I wonder, how far will this go. It won't stop, there will never be a time that the data bases know all they want to know. The issue is how will it be used. I'm not sure we can stop it. After all, a lot of the convenience we enjoy such as on line shopping, banking, ordering theater tickets, plane tickets, hotel reservations, etc involve the transfer of data about ourselves. This data is already accumulated by such firms as Axiom. How many times have you researched a topic on the internet just to find an email from a related topic in your in box the next morning. I just did. 

Under the guise of Homeland Security, anti-terrorist security and the search for pedophiles, pornographers, sex-slave rings, and a whole host of evil doings the access to information about our personal lives has to be of compelling interest to those agencies. Therefore, I do not think we can stop information gathering and classification. I'm not sure I want to, but we certainly are forced into a trust of our government to properly use the data. Can they be trusted. I think most would say not. I wonder how one gets off the grid?

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Too much convenience?

I like convenience, particularly in my computer and electronic "stuff." I like a remote that is easy to use and is multi-functional. I like the ergonomic keyboard that Microsoft came out with years ago, I have big hands and a regular key board forces me to keep my elbows in and forearms straight to type decently. The ergonomic board allows me to keep my arms relaxed and the raised bottom provides wrist support. I like speed in my computer. I recall when the Internet first came out and I was up to date with a 14.4 Kbs modem. I'd fall asleep waiting for the screen to refresh. Now it is much quicker, but I'd like instantaneous. I like excel and the power of word processing.

I like having my banking on line and used auto-download for entering my spending transactions into Quicken. I order quite a bit from and am mostly pleased with the speed with which I can order things and complete the transaction, sometimes with less waiting time than in-store purchases.

However, I was yanked back a little the other day when I saw and essurance ad that was extolling the speed with which they could give you a quote on car insurance. The ad said, a couple of clicks and we'll have all your cars that you can get quotes on. One part of me likes the speed and convenience. The other side of me says where are they getting the data from and how so quickly. I've read articles about huge data bases that house our buying, banking, and spending habits. Many of us pay with either credit or debit cards and all of those transactions are recorded someplace. Now with the capability to compile and query, vast stores of information are known by some machine that concern our life style. This is disturbing. I don't think I have any transactions that might be taken as surreptitious, but then I really don't know my life style pattern that a third party might become aware of.

I think we, as citizens have to be more vocal, more action oriented, and more on guard about what our government advocates and/or allows. Privacy is becoming more and more of an issue. Now with the war on terrorism the government, probably with good reason, wants access to private transactions and in fact has a profile(s) used to uncover potential acts of terrorism . So is it unpatriotic to fight against the invasion of privacy for the sake of safety? Or should we take the stand that we  hold privacy sacred above all consideration. This seems to be a very tough question for our society to meaningfully debate. I stand with privacy, yet my logic makes the need to know all manner of information rational and just. So I am torn and have not really been able to think my way out of this box yet. 

I'll let you know.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

A Life Passed in One Day.

Certainly a woman as wonderful as my sister Carol should have more than an hour of visitation, and hour of service and an afternoon of gathering. After all, doesn't her life mean more to those of us who knew her than the one day we spent paying our respects. That is all the time we are allowed, some have to get back to work, some have to travel long distances and wish to return home, and then how much time can you really spend telling stories and reliving memories?

I have read of great people, I have seen biographies, I've witnessed the action of the great and powerful in public life. We don't know of Oliver North traveling on his own to a distant hospital and putting on his uniform, even though he was retired from the military to visit a young person who wanted to meet him before he died. We often do not know of the personal involvement of the great and powerful in small events that are critical to very few.

I have come to realize there greatness is not limited to great and powerful people when it comes to caring for you fellow man. Everyone has an impact. My sister no less. The visitation and service for my sister was held in a packed church. People from a variety of areas came to pay their respects. I think most understood the difficult health issues Carol had the last three to six months of her life. Not being able to breath with ease was a cause of anxiety and fear that few people know. Yet she persevered. She played bridge, she attended church functions, partied with her Red Hat group, and went to plays and concerts with her friends. She never failed to have a positive effect on people. You would never know she was in trouble until she called a dear friend and said take me to the ER, I'm having breathing problems.

Carol was a tireless worker in the community, but her biggest impact was on her friends. She had many. So if the theory that if we touch one life we may touch many, I am sure she touched many. Probably as many as the "great and powerful." I am also sure her impact was positive. Plus if you count the remarkable family she raised and the grandsons potential for impacting our lives, she was a very remarkable women. 

I shall miss her. Many shall miss her. She was a great and powerful woman.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

My Sister's Passing

I have noticed something recently. My beloved sister Carol passed away last week. For some reason I don't feel bad. I mean I do not feel overwhelmed with emotion, sad to the point I cannot stop thinking about her, or walking around dwelling on her being gone from my life. Some of this can be hidden. It was ten years after my mother passed in 1971 that I awoke in the middle of the night dissolved in tears and was comforted by my wife over how much I missed her. Over the years I have come to realize that death is a part of life and that it serves as a reminder on how to treat people. Anger is an emotion that passes and time and talk can resolve. But to carry anger or hatred for a person all of our life stains our life and makes the colors less bright.

I'm not angry at my sister. I love her very much. Which is another thing I've come to realize and mean to correct. When someone passes I've heard people say I loved him or her so much. My sister is gone, I love her. I don't love her memory, I have memories, but I love her. I love my Dad, I love my Mom, they have all been dead for some time. My love for them will die when I die, not when they die.

Yet I remain puzzled, my surface feeling is peace and wonderment that such a fine person could be removed from our midst and no momentous event of nature took place. No gathering of clouds, no shaking of the earth, no rattling of the wind, just a passing of a shadow that will remain forever in the minds of those who knew and love her.

I have also come to learn that greatness is not solely for the great. The attributes that make people great often spring from those who simply go about their lives caring for people, standing for principles, and trying to make a difference. That difference can be large or small and the impact can also be large or small. It isn't a measure of greatness that large numbers were effected, but that the effort was successful at all. My sister Carol was active in her community, had circles of good friends, had a boundless sense of humor and loved to laugh. Sure there were a lot of things that made her angry, and she became upset with family members from time to time, but it never lasted. She had a good perspective on life and lived it to its fullest measure. Even days before she passed she made her famous Strawberry/Rhubarb pie for her daughter and her partner. Then she made a choice of how she wanted it to end. Her end came peacefully, her children were with her, she was comfortable and knew the deep love of family before she went. It was almost as though she charged up to the door, stopped and went through of her own accord. 

I will miss her. She meant a lot to me personally. When I was going through a medical challenge a few years ago I talked with her daily. She never objected, she told me of her situation with cancer in 2001 and her recovery, she shared intimate stories of her recovery with me to help me understand my own situation. She and I were close. One day a few years ago she and I took a trip to Traunik, MI. to the Mikullich family home. Our family and their family are linked by my brother's marriage to Gladys, or Micky one of the children. We marveled at the size of the upstairs home above the old store. We wondered what it must've been like to raise such a large family in such a small area. It was a bright, sunny blue sky kind of day that makes being out and about in the U.P. so special. We had such a fine time, just the two of us. It was a great day.

The picture is of me, Tom, Carol, and Phyl.

So now there are two, my sister Phyl and I. Phyl is 86, I am 68. The odds are I will be the last. However, I feel no weight to carry on anything, my Mom and Dad and siblings have done all the heavy lifting. I will enjoy their fruits and live my life hoping that when I face that door I have enough grace and class to pass through as Carol did.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Moral dilemmas.

When I was young I used to day dream of hunting. I used to dream of bringing wild game home and feeding my family. Rabbit stew, squirrel stew, venison steak, liver, partridge, pheasant all made up the menu. I've killed rabbits, squirrel partridge and pheasant. I've never killed a deer even though I've filled the air with lead. I have eaten a fair about of venison though. That has not bothered me from a moral standpoint killing to gain food. After all, isn't that the instinct of all species, survival. Some are prey, some are predators, but the food chain is vast and varied.

Cattle bother me. I've seen pictures of abused cattle being prodded with electrical shock sticks, hung by their feet and whisked down a overhead conveyor while still alive. Disheartening treatment by the superior predator, Man!

We live close to a butcher. He has his own herd, he slaughters calves mostly and has been doing so for years. As my wife and I travel back and forth I've seen him down a beast and cut it throat in the holding pen that is along side the road we travel. Terry came home one day to meet the man with a carcass slung from the front end loader taking it to the shop for processing. The holding pen isn't bad, it gets muddy when it rains but there is shelter, water and feed. He does not seem to mistreat his cattle. In my mind though it is death row. There is only one way out for those cattle waiting there and that is hanging on the end of a front end loader.

I have talked about buying meat from the man for some time but Terry has it in her mind what happens to his cows and considers him a murderer. I must admit I find it rather tough to look at the young cattle in the holding pen. Yesterday when I rode by the man was out by the fence doing something when a young bull kicked up its heels and joyfully jumped towards the man. Kind of like, "you want to play?" He paid no attention to the steer, and I don't blame him, you certainly cannot get attached to your inventory that way. But it made me feel sad. I kept thinking the beast does not know what awaits him, or does he? I hope not, I hope God has made that species to live only in the moment and not have the ability to contemplate the future. 

I got some raw bones from the man a few weeks ago and the dogs enjoyed them immensely. From time to time I thought, have I seen the steer whose bones you are gnawing on? However, they are deriving great pleasure, the dogs that is, and certainly good nourishment. But, I still can't help but feel guilty and sad. That's life, no one has ever said it is fair or just. Plus, I've talked with the man, he is a friendly nice man. Probably one I would enjoy knowing. It is a quandary I have no answer for.