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No Remembrance of Things Past

No turkey today for me:  it’s duck all the way.  Not a big eater of the gobbler, but love a duck slow cooked on the grill, so that’s where it’s at today, taking advantage of what will likely be the last 60 degree day for some time.  Then eat, rest, computer time–I have some programs I want to check out–then writing.

Back to the NaNo, which is down to its last four chapters, and may inch over sixty thousand words tonight if I’m lucky.  The wordage tells me that I may, just may, hit seventy thousand words when this is over, which is a good thing, because that puts it in an area where I can shop it in a lot of places if I go that route.

So all is good there.  Just get through the holiday–or as Rocky called it, “Thursday”–and move to the next day, which will not involve shopping.  Stick your Black Friday where the sun is non-luminescent:  I’ll be here.

This is, so I’m told, the day to give thanks.  Okay, thanks.  There you go, I’ve done given them.  I know what I have thanks for, and what I don’t–

There are a number of people on social media–and you know what social media I’m talking about–who like to put up pictures of stuff from like the 1960’s and ’70’s, and ask, “Hey, Like if you remember this!” or “Like this if you remember how great your childhood was!” or “Like this if you weren’t stoned on heroin by the time you were in college.”  Okay, maybe not so much that last one, but you know what I’m talking about.

There always seems to be a rush to some nostalgic time in a person’s life where they talk about how cool it was to run around outside barefoot, or having your parent yell out the backdoor that it was time for dinner, and no one hovered over them while they played.  (Oh, and for the meme going around that the people born in the 1950’s and ’60’s were the last to play out in the street:  come to my neighborhood.  You’ll be surprised.)

One thing you should know about the past:  it wasn’t as great as you remembered.  There were a lot of interesting things that happened back in them days, but compared to today–naw, I’ll stay in the future.

Sure, you had hand cranked kitchen appliances, and rotary phones, and maybe a TV that was the size of a Buick–but the chances are also good that you probably grew up for a while without air conditioning (as I did), and if you lived in any part of the country that had brutal summers (in other words, everywhere), there were probably more than a few times when you couldn’t get to sleep because it was 80 degrees outside, and the humidity was 85 percent, and there wasn’t a breeze in sight, so you laid there and suffered, hoping you passed out from exhaustion very, very soon.

It wasn’t always easy to make a long distance call; I can still remember my mother having to get an operator if she wanted to call her parents in Florida, because those long distant direct dial systems weren’t always working.  And if you wanted to call someone overseas, you usually went through an operator, and then your call was routed through an undersea cable–as happened with the first international call I made in 1989.  The echo was fantastic, let me tell you.  These days, I can pretty much call seventy percent of the world while I’m driving down the road if I know the number.

As for that huge TV:  three networks, plus a couple of local shows if you happened to live near a city big enough to support them.  For the longest time in the Chicago area, it was CBS, NBC, ABC, WGN, WTTW, and WFLD–or, Channels 2, 5, 7, 9, 11, and 32.  You watched what they gave you, and you were happy–mostly.  And none of those stations ran twenty four hours; leave any station on long enough, and that damn Star Spangled Banner was gonna blast you awake at some point.

Oh, sure:  go ahead and bitch about there being nothing on TV, but I can get my favorite shows out of the UK six hours after they were broadcast there–or faster, if I hop on my computer and look for an upload of the episode.  If you can’t find something to watch across eight hundred channels, you’re not trying.

Speaking of computes . . . when I was growing up, they were either something you saw in science fiction, or they filled a room and pumped out enough heat to cook today’s dinner.  When I went to school to get my degree in computers, I was on of the first lab techs to rule the roost when we got out own computer–an IBM Series-1.  We had the Model 3, with 32 kilobytes of memory to run our COBOL and RPG programs.  Yeah, you heard me:  32k of memory.  Kept that a year, then moved up to an IBM System 34, with 64 kilobytes of memory, 128 megabytes of hard drive storage, and enough tools to make your programming experience a sweet one.  Yeah, baby:  we were cookin’ with gas!

Today I fire up my laptop, connect to my wireless router, and I’m working here, in the cloud–from whence this blog post cometh–and chatting with people all over the world.  I can take it with me and work just about anywhere.  I have access to as much information and as many cat pictures as I can handle, and if I want to see what the city I’m writing about looks like, I can call it up on a map and get ideas for a story–as I’m doing with my NaNo Novel this year.

Science and medicine . . . if you forget for a moment that you might not be able to pay for treatment, if you can, you’ll probably beat most most stuff that’s out to get you.  As a child I was often afflicted with parasites of the lower intestine, and it wasn’t pleasant.  My daughter has never had to worry about that.  Most of the time you can get something to help you with illness by going to the story and buying it over the counter.  If you have high blood pressure, or high cholesterol, or depression, you can get something to help with that.

When I was a kid, if you had something with one of your organs, you were gone.  Today, we have transplants.  I was still getting tuberculosis tests until the fourth grade, and since I always came up with a false positive, I’d have to go off and have a chest x-ray, just to be sure that my lungs weren’t bleeding out on me.  My daughter only knows of these things through school–the same with polio and smallpox.  We haven’t figured out how to cure everything these days, but in the 1960’s, a lot of things that could kill you back then are only bad memories today.

I am a huge geek when it comes to space, and the 1960’s was a good time to be alive if you followed anything in orbit.  But I also remember reading in school science books that, as far as anyone knew, it was possible there were canals on Mars, and those clouds covering Venus could hide a huge, planet-wide jungle filled with dinosaurs!  Then the Mariner space probes came along and spoiled it all . . .

Or did they?  We know that Venus is about as strange a world as they come, where the heat will kill ya if the air pressure didn’t–we won’t mention the acid rain.  And while Mars doesn’t have canals, there are cannons as big as the U.S., old volcanoes that rise twenty-seven kilometers above the plains upon which it sits,  And huge depressions that were likely sea beds at one time.  It is, for me, a world of wonder–

As are the other planets–and smaller bodies, too–in the solar system.  We’ve visited every planet and taken pictures of them and their moons, we’ve sent probes to comets and asteroids, and in a few years we’ll have our first look look at Pluto.  We’re discovering planets around other stars, sometimes with the help of amateurs who are given access to data collected by the larger scopes, or by data from orbiting satellites–or even using their own equipment.  To paraphrase a line from Goodfellas, “It’s a glorious time to look at the cosmos.”

Believe it or not, there are a lot of things that are far better for people in terms of how things are done socially these days, than they were when I was a kid.  In the 1950’s and 1960’s, it was hard to vote in some places if you were black; if you were a woman, getting an abortion or contraceptives were difficult, impossible, or illegal.  Some states didn’t allow people of different ethnicities to marry.  And if you were LGBT, you damn well had better stay in that closet–or else.

It’s not quite perfect, mostly because you’ve still got idiots roaming about who are scared of all the the stuff in that last paragraph, but it’s getting there.  Just about anyone can get married regardless skin color, and people are becoming far cooling with gays being allowed the same.  It’s going to happen everywhere, and in time the anti-marriage equality people will be a bad memory, just as were the people against people of different ethnicities getting married.

LGBT people are becoming far more a part of life than they ever were “back in my day”.  Neil Patrick Harris is pretty much a household name; Ellen DeGeneres and Rachel Maddow are all over TV; George Takei . . . oh, myyyyyyyy.  Enough said.

It’s not a perfect world for LGBT, but it’s a hell of a lot better than things were before Stonewall.  How many people my age remember Rock Hudson’s life, spelled out in the same fashion as  Neil Patrick Harris’?  No, you don’t.  People didn’t know about his life, because coming out as a gay man, in the 1960’s, would have destroyed him as an actor.  We don’t remember much of his life:  we only remember his death.

I don’t look back.  For me, there were a lot of interesting things that happened, too many to recount, so many that shaped me.  But I’ll never post something like the picture of a cassette tape and say, “Remember these?  Like them if they remind you of a better time!”, because all I remember was when the damn things were eaten by your tape player, turning Benny and the Jets or Bohemian Rhapsody into some gibbering, fever dream creature straight outta Lovecraft, and your normal reaction was to curse loudly, eject the sucker, and toss it in a bin or, as I often did, out the window of your car as you cruised down the highway going sixty.

Forward, I say.  Let the past collect dust, and keep it there to use as a reference–but don’t kid yourself that it was super fantastic adventure time . . .

That’s coming on in twenty minutes.  And if you’re busy on the computer, DVR it.

We can do those things today, you know?

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