It’s the moments like these…

Where Florida is tolerable. It’s the moments like these, where the sun shirks below the horizon, leaving only an orange glow to mark its passing. It’s the moments like these, when the temperatures and humidity cooperate to allow open windows at home where fresh air blows dusty mantles and blinds sway in the gentle breeze. It’s the moments like these where I am surest of God’s ever presence, and re-awed at his creation. He made that big bang, knowing it would lead to this here and now. And in knowing, this day like all others is a gift. And it is the remembrance of these days that gets me through the furnace of summer to the ecstasy of fall and winter.

And in moments like these, I remember my love for camping with my daughter, and bicycle rides when sweat isn’t as pervasive. When evenings are comfortable. And then in March we’ll start back along the path of longer days and warmer evenings. Cheers to fall!


Drops from the sky…

Sitting here. Watching. Umbrellas nervously clutched. Anxious looks skyward lead to worried thoughts. How fast is it approaching? So hard to tell with all the facades in the way. Fingers reaching from all around skyward hold workers in their grasp.

Then it begins with a violent and rude outburst. Thunderous roaring rumbles and echoes down here. Facades reverb like large tall drums, magnifying the effect. Flash bulbs of a God size precede the roar and accompany the drops. People scatter, shielding themselves with papers, books or their hands.

The sounds and sights start to abate now. The pace of falling slows. From my window on the street, I experience none of their panic or hurriedness. My rain coat sits unused in my bag. Umbrella, dry. Waiting this out is easy and refreshing. I am a houseplant, with a window to their world.


Knowledge

Why does knowledge feed me so?
Its wispy wings surround me.
I feel the rhythm in its words,
their meanings and depth, they chide me.
Words within words, phrase within phrase
look and you will find, thee.
I search the winds of information around me,
and cheer when their meanings appear to me.
When knowledge is what I do not seek,
darkness tends to follow.
For it is the light of knowledge that guides my way,
its search for which then sates me.
True knowledge, I will never find
as long as heartbeats bind me.
Until they cease, I hope to feel
those wispy wings about me.
So knowledge, you I hope to seek
till death or dementia define me.


So long to the shuttles

As a 30-something who grew up reading, over and over, the section from the Encyclopedia Britannica on the space program, when I listened to the story today on NPR of the first departure of a shuttle to its final resting place, I had a range of feelings. Generally they were bittersweet. On the one hand, hearing of the ways NASA has planned to have en-route viewings made me extremely happy and proud. On the other, the realization that these beautiful, complex, very imperfect creations – much like their makers – who have spent months in space but will never again taste the freedom of open air or the blueness of a perfect day saddens me.

The vehicles once designed to accept and attenuate many times the force of gravity will instead only feel that of a single gravity’s tug. Tiles designed to be ablative in the face of thousands of degrees of friction with the upper atmosphere will instead bask in the climate controlled space they will hang or sit. Engines, long since removed and replaced with replicas, will never exert thrust upon these vehicles.

This process has been much like the death of a person from old age – eventual. The final flights, like the last sweet breaths of a life, were the punctuation at the end of their flight stories. Upon the completion of these last flights, the three shuttles were rolled, ever slowly in their grounded way, towards the very vehicle assembly building where it was previously readied for spaceflight, but now the building served not as a re-nourishment but as a mortician. The shuttles were carefully hoisted into a scaffolded configuration inside the building, as if on a gurney, splayed open and then drained of their bodily fluids for their display to us, its loving family. Nasa is outfitting them with prosthetic replica engines and parts – their Sunday best – for the viewings along its trip before they rest.

And like a grand Emperor beloved by its subjects, we have painstakingly chosen its huge tombs such that these both physical and metaphorical giants will be visible for generations to come. Millions of people will pass in front of its unseeing eyes at it counts the passage of time in years, decades, and perhaps centuries.

What will future generations far in the future think of it? Will it be an ancient relic, similar to the pyramids, where they will wonder how our simple knowledge and ancient technology were able to fly these as we did? Or will they instead look at them as the genesis of their reaches into the cosmos?

My hope is that their esteem and thoughts of the shuttle program include all the love and affection of children like I was, where every trip into the history of the program was a poignant reminder to look to the sky and dream of tomorrow. This is one of the many gifts the shuttle gave. We mourn their passings from flight today.

And let us not forget Challenger. And Columbia. Of these we have but fragments and photos to remind us. Your memories live on and we miss you.

So thank you, shuttles. Rest you well.


Old and new – scenes from a seasoned deli.

I sit here in a deli, though that word is foreign to some of its youngest denizens. The youngest would much rather be in a cafe or a sandwich shop – or a hip coffee shop that sells food. Only their parents or grandparents eat in delis after all, they would tell their friends if seen there.

Surrounded by tables full of a half dozen decades worth of age and experience, I revel in its dichotomy. A cacophony of voices surrounds me, but the table behind catches my attention. Amongst the chorus, I hear a few men short of a dozen talking. Their loud voices and tones are unmistakable – there is power, perhaps even political power there.

As I listen, I note without looking on the cast of characters. On the one, there are the wise – the old guard, having visited here for the better part of their longer lives. They speak of experiences their less experienced neighbors can hardly relate to nor understand. On the other are the upstarts – hungry for the respect and authority of the elders. All speak in the measured speech that is both careful and confidant.

Laughter echos off of the walls now at a crass joke from within their ranks. Suddenly the demeanor of the table changes. A single of them raises a chastising voice to its younger teller for offending sensibilities. The teller has made a juvenile mistake. But the accuser is neigh offended – this is about power and demanded respect. The joke was not appropriate for he of a lesser statute, and the elder has called the younger to task.

A quiet, semi-contemplative period follows where eyes quietly poll each member of the party. This silent roll call vote will never be truly known, but its importance wanes. A half apology is made in the form of an explanation – no one at the table is a novice at this give and take, and the youth has gained some lost ground. Conversation turns to less serious matters as the lesser attempts to assert his technological prowess. The older shrugs off this attempted parry as unimportant, but I hear the reticence in his voice. The elder statesman realizes he has been bested. That paradigm will one day shift.

As they rise to leave, there is back slapping, many handshakes and cheery loud machinations with the promise for more lunches together. These are men exuding power, demanding respect by their words and body language, tone and piercing looks.

The men rise to part, except the act of rising is difficult for some due to aged atrophy. The young, first to rise, offer practiced assistance to the elder, further raising their stature to the group. I wonder, unable to turn around and look, if the youth stand taller as they offer assistance – a reminder that time strolls through their ranks unabated by power.

The dichotomy stays unbroken. Some habits are hard to break.

Then I look over my shoulder as the tables are pulled apart. They seem to still radiate from the men that occupied them. Oh, if those tables could talk…


Fog has no power over me.

All at once today, there was the cold of the air. And the warmth of my down comforter. And the moisture of my bathroom post-shower. Sweet conversations and morning hugs and my gentle nudging to make sure we’re not late.

Then there was the chewy toasted cream cheese-topped Einstein’s bagel and last conversations and sorrow as I dropped Maddy off at school. Next came the traffic that envelops I-95 N at any hour of the morning. The madness of those rushing towards a deadline that likely does not require the rush. Movement all around me, ending in a circuitous route to where my vehicle stays the day. The ugly look from the guy that parks next to me because his giant SUV is hard to park in the small spot. The implication that I should have given him leeway to ease his challenge. I look down and find my vehicle’s left and right side equidistant from their closest line and smile at him.

Words texted from a good friend permeate this soup of negativity – streaming through like the first breaking of sun through a fog bank. Coffee helps lift this fog too as I walk to work. I enter the doors on the bottom floor and remind myself how fortunate I am to be at work, to have a job. To pay my bills and to be able to afford that bagel and coffee. Now the fog of negativity has fully lifted its veil on me and I keep reminding myself of the glory of all that surrounds me. I am alive. I have awesome friends. I have a daughter who makes every daily plight worth anything. These problems are all good problems to have.

This day is gorgeous, I’d say.


My Galaxy Nexus will beat up your honor student, or why the Nexus is the best imperfect phone I’ve ever had.

I posted this on “The Verge” forums a few days ago – adding here for my own edification. 🙂

I’ve never had a perfect phone. Chris Ziegler states he hopes there never IS a perfect phone (my paraphrase from his blog). The Galaxy Nexus doesn’t come anywhere close to perfection, but it has a blend of compromises that I neither mind nor think are meaningful. Not that you may care, but I’m writing this and it i how I got to own a Galaxy Nexus from being an early adopter of the iPhone.

I waited a week or two to get the original iPhone. It was definitely imperfect. After being woo’ed by its good job of contact management, e-mail, maps, multitouch and a real web browser, I was underwhelmed by the 2.5G speeds. On WiFi, oh man did that phone shine! When the iPhone 3G was available I jumped on it thanks to two $100 credits from Apple since I was a stupid an early adopter. 3G data speeds helped, but the app store that launched the day before the 3G opened the promise gates of a portable computer. I skipped the 3GS (stupid contract), and was crushed by iOS 4. After installing iOS 4, I suddenly had a very expensive contractual paperweight that barely made phone calls.

My iOS 4 experience wasn’t unique on the 3G, but it really pissed me off. Here I had a phone that I got fairly soon after its launch, that was still under contract and an Apple update had ruined it. Calls would go to voicemail because the slider didn’t respond. Apps were glacial to load. Unlocking it was a lesson in patience. I wanted out of the Apple experience and was amongst the cacophony of naysayers against AT&T’s customer service and dropped-calls-R-us network. It didn’t help that I saw the modal notifications as a form of denial of service attack harkening me back to the days of pop-up-browser hell in the late 90s.

I decided to jump ship to Verizon and Android. I loved notifications, multitasking and widgets. I got the Droid X when it launched and knew I’d made the right choice. Like the iPhones before it, my Droid X was not bereft of flaws. Indeed, with regular use I could drain a battery in hours. Updates were snail-quick to arrive. There was pervasive lag periodically throughout the Blur experience. Apps at the time were much harder to find – but there was promise delivered on notifications and multitasking and the Google apps were life changingly good. When the Droid Charge was released, I jumped to it to grab unlimited 4G data before it disappeared and was jarringly dropped into the world of Android fragmentation. My Droid X had Gingerbread and the brand new superphone, the Droid Charge, was on Froyo. Uhh – what? That aside, I loved the 4G data speeds and after some tomfoolery with leaks, I was back on Gingerbread.

Much to my surprise, I enjoyed the native sharing in Android – it was one of those “I didn’t realize I was missing it until I had it” items. On the iPhone, iOS takes a decentralized approach to sharing – you share based on the app you want to use. Sure you can take a picture with the camera and then go into facebook or twitter and share from the gallery, but generally it would be a multi-app process. And that’s where I was surprised how much I liked Android. Take a pic, there’s a share button and based on the apps that have said they can accept a picture, you can directly share – from the camera or gallery – the picture.

Behind the curtain, this is due to a fundamental difference between iOS and Android – intents. Put simply, an intent is the way an application in Android publishes its ability to accept data from another application. If you write a twitter app and you want a picture to be able to be shared with your twitter app in this fashion, you publish an activity capability to Android saying “I can accept a picture object”. Then, when the user taps the share button (an activity in Android) it is either an explicit intent (mapped to a specific activity) or an implicit intent (select from a list of appropriate activities) and the appropriate app is launched in its activity (mapped from the selected intent) to accept the object. Facebook opens to the “post a picture” activity, for example, and messaging opens an MMS message to a yet unspecified recipient.

Of course it goes beyond that. Apple seems to see it as a security risk for one application to see another’s data. You can’t have a different messaging app than the built-in app because the SDK provides no means that I am aware of to attach to the SMS database, or the contact database. This is a huge concept because it allows you on Android to do things like tap a youtube URL in the browser and have the youtube app launched (the native one) instead of the HTML5/flash version in the browser. It is HUGELY powerful – and as some commenters will undoubtedly mention, can be misused.

However – it’s that level of interactivity that really makes Android functionally efficient to me – and that really surprised me. As much as Apple purports for its products to “just work” (full disclosure: writing this on my beloved MacBook Pro right now), iOS really falls short here. When I show iPhone friends how sharing works in Android (that is, after I show them how their own multitasking and a litany of other iOS features work, like swiping a notification on the lock screen to go into that app), they inevitably go “oh wow – that’s cool!”.

So why is all of this about the Gnex? Simple. It’s the most functional phone with Android on it right now. It “just works” in ways I hoped Gingerbread would. The pervasive lag is at or better than that which I’ve personally experienced on friends’ iPhone4S devices, except I have the experience-changing Verizon 4G network speeds to back up the phone’s capabilities. It has gestures where I always wished there would be a way to do something. They finally got real copy-paste nearly everywhere (ebay app, I’m looking at you!). Notification bar from the lock screen is genius. Application groups on the home screen are long overdue and well implemented. This is the first Android phone I haven’t replaced the launcher or lock screen for on the first day I owned it.

It’s nerd nirvana. It’s imperfect. The camera is absolutely fine to me. The data speeds make any iPhone seem stuck in molasses while downloading. The screen Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – strongly flawed at low brightness and OMG amazing at full brightness. But you know what? It delivers the best smartphone experience I’ve ever used. No – I haven’t used an iPhone4S as my daily driver, but I’ve taught so many friends how to use it, I feel like I have.

Of course, had the Galaxy Nexus not been released or so reverently reviewed by The Verge, I’d own an iPhone4S right now. But I’d be ticked off at missing my sharing and 4G, and pretty sorry once I saw ICS in its Google glory anywhere else.