Monday, May 24, 2021

On the Cusp of Illiteracy Again

I wouldn’t have dreamt it few years ago, but these days my fluency in computers is almost gone. Did I ever speak that language?

There was a time, after I had bought an Apple Computer (because it was by far the cheapest), when I grew curious about computer languages and decided to try… now here I have to stop because the name of the language refuses to come. But as I typed on, it came back. I decided to see if I could program in…Basic. That was then the simplest language. The screen on my machine only held forty characters across (as it seems now). I bought myself a big green card and after many sweaty but prayerful efforts, I managed to stick it into a slot inside my computer. Amazingly it worked. Now I had 80 characters across. The next step was to get Basic to draw me a line on that 80-byte surface. That took about a week. Finally I’d done it. Not only that, but I also managed to print that line on a sheet of paper.

Brigitte was in the kitchen (no doubt cooking something she couldn’t replicate now [because she has the same problems I do]). She still recalls my triumphant entry holding that sheet of paper with the single line showing at the top.

“I made it draw a line,” I cried, showing the line to her. Pause. Well, that was the beginning. In a year or two I was earning a living by programming computers of all sizes and using all sorts of languages. The list of those would take me weeks to dig from memory, so I’ll spare you the pleasure of reading them, but machine language was one of those. Programming in that “language” is a little like scratching the inside of the machine with a screwdriver rather than speaking to it through a higher level language.

These days, alas, when some invading something wants to take over the job of protecting me from viruses (no, not that one), I have to call daughter Monique to tell me how to remove that something forever and ever—until it returns.

Among the illiterate now, the old problems are back again. How do I copy this page so that it will appears on my blog? If you are reading this, I succeeded. If not, I’m no longer in the company of humans. Time to learn how to use an IPhone…

Monday, May 10, 2021


Just saw a crow land on our birdfeeder; it was way too big for it, therefore awkward, and quite unable to get a seed from the evenly placed feeding holes. Moreover, something nasty hung from its beak, perhaps the remainder of a worm.

At last it flew away and left me thinking that it was so shamelessly just like a bird.

Most of our bird visitors sit there seemingly proud of their grace and peck at the seeds on offer sharply, accurately, with a kind of swift élan.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

No. No Moose.

An article with illustration in the NY Times today once more brought to mind that there is an unfinished list in my mind or things I’ll never do or will never pay for. Among the “never do” items belongs “Tightrope walking between two skyscrapers in New York City.”

Among the “never pay for” items belongs paying for a wig to cover my bald spot. That one’s easy because I don’t have a bald spot. But even if I had one…

Combining these two categories, I am sure I’ll never shoot a moose and, having shot it, pay to have its skull removed, preserved, and mounted on a wall of my house. No thank you!

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Life Briefly Analyzed

Is life energy? It’s reasonable to think so. After all, all the motion that we see here on earth or up in the sky is produced by energy—either by suns of or by the original Big Bang that created the universe. Trouble is that energy as such lacks one of the important features of life, consciousness. If consciousness is viewed as more valuable or in a higher order than mere energy, then to say that life is energy is to assert that something (consciousness) can be derived from something that does not have the potential for it (energy). With a little effort, we can in virtually all instances trace energy to specific chemical or physical causes. Okay. The Big Bang is a little more difficult to prove.

Is life purposive? Of course. But by purposive I don’t merely mean such things as satisfying hunger or building a career. Nor do I mean the capacity for reproduction. Reproduction, after all, simply builds other individuals like myself; all of them, myself included, must die. So life’s purpose is to die? Absurd.

It does not surprise me, therefore, that humanity has ages ago postulated that life’s meaning must be found beyond bodily existence. Death is too poor a purpose to justify the complexity of life or the maintenance of the incredible chemical machines that we are just to let them return to “dust”.

Now materialists will claim that humanity’s projection of an afterlife is just another human desire to “hang on” to life. That charge seems reasonable until you become genuinely old. When you finally are, you become indifferent to such things. Fall asleep dreamlessly and never awaken? That’s perfectly OK for most of us.