……………The so-called “Mayan Apocalypse” came and went without much incident (as expected by the sane portion of the population) and thus, we had to pull out our calendars, PDAs, smartphones and digital tablets and continue planning for the future. Like most people, this time of year brings to mind New Year’s resolutions (goals to aim for) as well as making me stop to reflect on the past twelve months and all that has transpired, both in the larger world and personally in my own life.
……………It’s impossible for me to write a coherent, essay-style post covering all the things that I’ve been thinking about lately. So instead, I offer you a list of bullet point observations with some links to let you explore more if you like, less if you don’t want to:
- Explosion of information/ My role as librarian: It used to be that being a librarian basically meant that you were an archivist and a keeper and organizer of information. Every library used to be a warehouse unto itself and the best librarians knew everything about their collection and where it could be found. The modern librarian is not so much a keeper of information any longer, as there are just too many good resources to warehouse in any one place. Even the Library of Congress can no longer keep up with the data available. The internet itself is still only partially archived because after all, how do you make a back up copy of everything in the world? As such, my job as a librarian has evolved to the point where I am expected to keep and manage our limited text collection, but more importantly, I should be knowledgeable about what is available online. No small task indeed, but one that always leads me to great discoveries.
- The digital intrusion at home: One of the first things you notice about the modern home is the number of electronic devices in use. At my own house, everyone has their own computer. My wife and I have laptops in our respective home offices, and my sons both have a their own gaming computers in the family room. We have two small LCD televisions, one LCD projector, two DVD players, one radio, one MP3 player and a Kindle Fire. Even when everyone is at home, we are hardly ever all in one room doing something together. I am just as guilty as everyone else, having grown up with a television in my bedroom as my late night companion. If it wasn’t for those late night shows, I might never have seen Jackie Gleason in the HoneyMooners or Lucy and Desi in I Love Lucy or Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone (and I’ve written before here about how much I love that show). The only exception is meal time, which I still cook and which remains media free. That is not to say that we don’t do other things together (play with legos, build puzzles, read, play Scrabble, draw), but I noticed that there was usually something “on” in the background as we played. A television show or movie, a stream of Pandora music, someone playing a video game.
- Words with Friends: This game is really the main reason I still keep my Facebook account. I have become so accustomed to playing my turn every day against multiple challengers from all different stages of my life, that I miss it when my friends don’t play their turn. Because it is an asynchronous game, each person taking their turn whenever they are on, it isn’t really the same kind of interaction seen in the popular multi-player online shooter games. What worries me most though, is how unhappy I am (even if just for an instant) when I log on and I don’t have a turn to play. I wonder how many other people feel this kind of “letdown” from their digital devices, either when they don’t get an e-mail, or a Facebook response or some other digital communication.
- My oldest kid became a teenager: I now have one of “them” living with me. It is a little bit intimidating to tell the truth, to have to live with someone who is so hypercritical of others, yet so very unwilling to reflect on his own shortcomings. Luckily there are many great quotes to keep me grounded as I make my way through these years. Besides that, all my years in education have been spent in 9-12 except for a two year stop as a k-4 school librarian. One thing I’ve noted so far is that my oldest son, like so many boys his age and older, calls himself a “gamer”, as though that were a title akin to say, piano player or dancer or artist. Anyway, this means that he needs more expensive computers that can handle the graphics demands of today’s online environment. That’s getting expensive, and difficult to keep up with, technically speaking.
- Curiosity Lands on Mars & the Solar System may be larger than we thought: Now that we no longer have a Space Shuttle program, it seems that NASA’s game plan is to shoot rovers, satellites and probes out among the stars. It’s not a bad plan, really, considering the vastness of space currently prohibits any real long terms journey with people aboard. That, and the fact that all of our technology has really taken quantum leaps in the fifty years since we first ventured into space, means we could learn plenty without endangering human lives. Besides, a space journey that began when I was just a ten year old boy (Voyager I) still hasn’t officially left the solar system, thirty five years later. On the plus side, both Voyager spacecraft (yep, there were two) are still sending back valuable information about the far reaches of our own little corner of the universe.
- Early human history and the role of art: I love all kinds of art, but lately I’ve taken a special fascination with Paleolithic and Neolithic art, commonly known as cave paintings. Many of the sites have been dated back tens of thousands of years, with the oldest sites being almost 40,000 years old. The sheer beauty of the artwork is a testament to the minds behind the paintings. More haunting and cryptic are the hand prints and outlines of hands that are found throughout the caves. Fifty thousand years or so may seem like a long time to us (since we live only about 75 years, it represents nearly 700 lifetimes) but it is a mere blip in geologic or evolutionary time. What’s more, it now appears that we (homo sapiens) shared the Earth not that long ago with at least three or four other human species (Neaderthals, homo floresiensis also popularly called “hobbits”, and now the Red Deer Cave people of China). As far as we know, only homo sapiens began representing the world symbolically through art, and this distinction may be the key to understanding why we are here today, while our closest human cousins are all gone (or absorbed, some would argue).
- The Large Hadron Collider and the Higgs-Boson: After numerous false starts, the LHC in Switzerland was able to make preliminary confirmation of the discovery of the elusive Higgs boson. Now, I would be lying if I told you I really understood what the scientists at CERN are doing and what it all means. In a nutshell, they were shooting protons at each other at nearly the speed of light and recording the collision for traces of what “comes out of” the crash. What they were looking for, known on the street as the “God particle”, is the Higgs boson which confirmed the standard model of the universe, and explained why things have mass. Sounds cool, even if I can’t do the math.
I had more to write, but “ran out of time”, as I wanted to post this before the New Year … Technically, I still have about five hours left as I am in the Eastern Daylight Time Zone. WordPress, however, who hosts this site, is somewhere in Europe, where they have already started 2013, so I submitted the post prematurely to get it “in” for 12/31/2012. I missed by 5 minutes …. Anyway, have a Happy New Year, and I will see you all in a few days.
Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2012. All rights reserved.