Time Portal

For some reason I just remembered the address of my previous blog. I tried looking before, but couldn’t find it and assumed it was deleted. But it’s there, about 200 posts primarily in 2002 but with a handful of posts going all the way up to 2009. Reading through it just now, I don’t like the tone or subject-matter.

The material is very evolution-centric, reminiscent of a militant-atheist type, and quite pessimistic. Humanity is characterized as a product of millions of years evolution, yet never truly progressing, as it’s comprised of highly irrational animals living in deeply flawed societies. It is most assuredly a negative critique of the human condition.

Underlying the writing seems to be a feeling of betrayal by humanity itself and the resulting isolation. I suppose it’s a disillusioned young man lashing out. He is confused and focusing on the worst of his surroundings. And while others are witless, he sees the harsh reality they refuse to acknowledge.

A decade after starting that blog I started this one. Current me has a broader perspective of the world — or so I believe. Who’s to say I won’t have a completely different viewpoint in another decade. I don’t like the certainty that younger me professed, he was so sure the world worked in a particular way, and so sure of its awfulness.

I don’t think he’d understand what I write about in this blog. He’d be dismissive of my hopefulness and call me naive. He’d scoff at my mention of spiritual matters. He’d see me as lost in a sea of irrationality. He’d think my happiness a delusion. To his mind, my words would be poison and I’d be nothing but a pied piper of poppycock.

He and I appear to exist on two different planes of perception. I wonder if there’s anything that could be said to alter such a dour attitude. Or must we simply ride it out until hitting a dead-end, reversing our direction. Or do we change by rote, relentless drilling of what we want to be. Or from exhaustion, finding serenity from uncertainty. Or does the page in our story simply turn.

Two Tiny Wings

When I was a boy my parents took us to Florida every year to spend two weeks in Disney World. We’d go in February when it was bitterly cold in the Northeast. We’d drive in our motorhome for about 28 hours, making a stop or two along the way, oftentimes staying at South of the Border, an odd Mexican themed rest-stop between North and South Carolina.

At Disney, we’d stay at their Fort Wilderness campground. I loved it because I could ride my bike anywhere I wanted, it was freedom. Sometimes I’d even go on my own for breakfast at the Trail’s End restaurant, my favorite was the french toast, three triangle slices encrusted with sweet cinnamon-y goodness, covered in warm syrup. One year I met another little boy and we’d meet for breakfast like two adults discussing whatever it was.

Another year, me and a family-friend took stacks of newspapers out of the dispenser and delivered them to people’s campsites, just for fun. When I was a little older, we’d ride the transportation (boats, buses, and monorails) to the other resorts to play in their arcade or eat in their quick-service restaurants. All of Disney was open to us for exploration, again it was freedom.

Eventually when my parents retired we moved down to Florida. When the opportunity presented itself, I moved right next to Disney World in a quaint little place called Celebration, a community designed by Disney. I used to walk to the Market Street Cafe, sit at the counter and order an Open-Faced Meatloaf Sandwich and a Coconut Cream Pie or I’d go to the Celebration Town Tavern and get Lobster Chowder and a Blackened Prime Rib sandwich, finishing with a Boston Cream Pie. We’d often walk the streets of Celebration, sometimes going as far as Aquila Reserve or Artisan Park.

When we lived in Celebration, I liked going to Downtown Disney — after eating a Full Montagu at The Earl of Sandwich in the Marketplace side, we’d head over to the West Side for a Haagen Dazs Mint Chip Dazzler, walking past the Lego store and Pleasure Island (as it used to be called). We’d also drive to all the resorts just to look around and walk, or we’d go to Epcot to walk around the World Showcase, often listening to Spelmanns Gledje at the Norway pavilion or the Voices of Liberty in the American pavilion and ending with a Napoleon at the Boulangerie Patisserie in the France pavilion.

My sister used to work at Disney, she’s very short and used to dress up as Mickey Mouse and take photos with people. My mother has worked at Disney since moving down, showing people to their table in a restaurant. My wife used to work at Disney, floating between a bunch of different jobs, from resorts to theme parks to call centers, and even in the animation building that they no longer use for actual animating. You could say I bled Mickey red. For a time I wanted my ashes sprinkled about in the backwoods of Fort Wilderness, because to me, Disney represented fun and freedom, something I lacked back home growing up.

Having immersed myself so much in Disney by living there, I kinda got it out of my system. Plus, they did get rid of some of my favorite childhood memories, such as in Epcot’s Future World they dumped Horizons and changed the Imagination ride — and in the Magic Kingdom they dumped 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Mister Toad’s Wild Ride. And the last time I stayed at Fort Wilderness, there was no French Toast, we had to bike over to the Wilderness Lodge and get some at the Whispering Canyon Cafe.

After I left Florida they built a neighborhood of luxury houses literally right beside Fort Wilderness. For a time it was a dream of mine to live within Disney itself. Yet even if I won the lottery, I don’t think I’d consider moving there though, I mean it might cross my mind, but I think I’ve moved on. It was my childhood home of sorts, the place I remember most fondly — but when you fuck with my french toast, that’s unforgivable.

Remember the 90s

As a kid in the 80s, I disliked the music, it seemed the opposite of cool. It was either men with teased hair wearing tights singing about hot bikini babes, or it was dorky adults with skinny ties singing about the rain. Honestly I have no idea what they were singing about, I wasn’t interested. I was envious of the 60s whenever the oldies came on.

But then the 90s happened. Music was raw, and cool again. I didn’t understand all the lyrics and didn’t know names of songs, but I didn’t need to, I felt it. I was in high school, then college, it was our time man. The angst of the age was transmitted through rock and rap.

Whereas the 80s gave off an inevitable post-apocalyptic vibe, the 90s gave off a hopeful “Star Trek, The Next Generation” vibe. The Internet became mainstream. Voices were being heard. The Dot-com boom blasted us into the future. Times were changing and money grew on e-trees.

That’s an idyllic remembrance of course — to be honest, things were a bit messy. The emotion in the music came from somewhere after all. Eventually the authenticity of the era faded. Intensity, by its nature, is brief. But the music allowed frustration to be aired and the Internet introduced new avenues of exploration.

Sweet Source

One of the problems I had with software development was finding something to make. Being more technical than creative, I only ever came up with the most mundane projects. And on top of that, I needed the source-code to be well-ordered with a logical flow, the functionality couldn’t be hacked together — if it was going to be kludgy, then I wanted no part of it — it had to be clean and tidy.

I tried my hand at commercial software development for a few years in the “shareware” markets. I made some sales but nothing major. Eventually when I needed some real money, I found a work-at-home programming job as an independent contractor developing websites. I was more experienced creating desktop software, so it took a little bit to get comfortable writing backend code for websites and tying them to databases.

Through subcontracting and sometimes sub-subcontracting, I even did work for a few large well-known companies. I had to be on conference calls and act all business-y. Prior to this, I had worked part-time at my father’s business doing computer related stuff, so it was somewhat familiar, the calls and talking to business people and being the tech guy and such.

But in the end, clients were no better at coming up with interesting projects to work on than I was. So with a lagging interest, combined with my persnickety approach to programming, it just didn’t work out in the end, me and software development. I can’t say I miss it, but I can’t say I’d never go back either. And technically, I still sell a small amount of software but no longer update it, so it’s likely to become obsolete.

Going Online

I’ve been using the Internet for about twenty years now. After feeling somewhat isolated, I was drawn to it as a way of interacting with people. After experiencing a free-trial of a dial-up “online service”, I was hooked — chatting with people all over the country within text-based chat-rooms — it was thrilling in a way, and kept me up all night many times.

Eventually I became interested in the technical aspects of the Internet and downloaded all the software I could in order to learn how to use it: different operating systems as well as FTP/HTTP/IMAP/POP3/SMTP servers — and I’d create websites by writing raw HTML and spent a lot of time with photo-editing software. And pre-wifi, I networked our home computers with a hub (later a switch) after running some cat5 cable through the walls, and setup a Linux server on an older computer to connect them all to the Internet (later replaced with a hardware router).

At one time I even downloaded a program used for developing software, but found it too difficult to understand intuitively, so I gave up on it. Later on, after reading a few books on programming, I was able to revisit that topic and write my own software. I found it neat to write programs that could literally talk to the servers on the Internet. For example I’d send HELO to email servers to initiate a transaction.

I’ve been putting my thoughts on the Internet for all that time too. First in public chat-rooms, then personal emails, then on basic websites hosted by Geocities, then Blogger, and later on I’d sometimes post on forums. I took a few breaks from expressing my thoughts while I was busy talking to computers. But after I stopped engaging in the technical aspects of computing, I started posting thoughts again, first on Reddit and now on WordPress.

Today my daily use of the Internet consists of reading posts and comments on Reddit, but without posting or commenting myself — watching videos from channels I’ve been subscribed to for years on YouTube — watching shows or movies on TV-network/video apps — posting thoughts on WordPress — oh and checking the weather, I love weather radar and satellite maps.

How To Christmas

In early December, in the late-afternoon or after supper, play Christmas music of the 1950s and 1960s, such as The Little Drummer Boy by The Harry Simeone Chorale and Marshmallow World by Dean Martin and It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year by Andy Williams.

Mail out Christmas-themed cards to various relatives, friends, and acquaintances. Mailing out early gives recipients a chance to reciprocate and provides them with an address if necessary. And of course, use Christmas-themed stamps.

Bring home a formerly living pine tree, typically of the Balsam Fir or Fraser Fir variety. Beginners should start with a 5 foot or under whereas an intermediate can go about 6 to 7 feet. It may be easier to secure the tree in its stand while still horizontal, before bringing it into the house.

Typically, a couple sets of string-lights will cover a small tree. Start at the top and wind it around and around, ending with the pronged-end at the very bottom of the tree. Place a lighted star on top of the tree and plug it into the beginning of the string-lights. Now plug the lights into an extension cord and insert into a wall outlet. Observe the wondrous magical lights as Christmas music plays in the background.

With lights lit and music playing, place shiny bulbs, various ornaments, ribbons, bows, or other garlands around the tree. Take your time and enjoy. When complete, pour water into the tree’s stand and place the tree-skirt around the base. Place any pre-existing presents under the tree. Further house decorating is optional — one might include artificially lit candles in the windows, a wreath on the front door, a manger scene, a Christmas village, hanging mistletoe, or toy-soldier nutcrackers.

By mid December, bake a batch of ginger molasses or sugar cookies — also consider baking holiday breads such as pumpkin or cranberry. Leave out a bowl of mixed nuts accompanied by metal nutcrackers and keep a supply of clementines in the fridge. Christmas-themed movies should be watched around this time as well — classics include Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964), How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966), A Christmas Story (1983), and Scrooged (1988).

Presents should be purchased and wrapped by this time. If young children are present, gifts from Santa should be hidden and wrapped differently from other presents and placed around the tree late Christmas Eve. On Christmas morning, presents are opened.

In the late-afternoon, Christmas dinner is consumed — a roasted meat with gravy and root vegetables with a splash of corn or peas. For dessert, consider having apple pie with vanilla ice cream and a dollop of whipped cream.

The tree and other decorations are removed sometime after New Years Day. And remember, throughout the season, at all times, be mindful of Christmas cheer and goodwill towards men. Wish others the best and give the gift of forgiveness and the present of patience. And have yourself a very merry Christmas time.

P.S. As every Christmas movie teaches, it’s never too late to save Christmas.

Family Lines

Recently, I started researching my ancestry via the Internet, looking through historic documents such as census data for a chain of descent. Census data typically lists the residents of a dwelling, their relationship to one another, their age, occupation, where they’re born, and sometimes where their parents were born. There’s also clues available via grave stones, with dates and family members. And eventually, as one moves further back in history, distant modern relatives have already mapped out common ancestors.

By using this methodology I was able to trace back a bunch of ancestors to a few countries. Northern Ireland, England, Germany, and Ireland. Of course my complexion and the names of my grandparents were a big clue that my family derived from The British Isles and Germany — but I never felt certain of it and had no direct ties to anywhere.

I grew up around people from a more modern migration, with traditions and ties to their ancestral homelands. They readily identified as part of a particular group, and when asked what I was, I could only answer “American”, as that’s the only thing I could confirm. Yet funny enough, my father was actually an immigrant — but being that his homeland was right over the border where the native language was English and the food nearly identical, it never felt like a distinct culture.

So far, I’ve seen that a few of my ancestors came over in the mid 1800s. Although at least one line appears to be early settlers from the 1600s. One side was all rural farmers while the other had various urban jobs. Some lived very long lives while others relatively short ones. Some settled into stability, living for generations within a particular area, while others moved about. I may continue to research, although I’m not sure what I’m hoping to find.