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November 28, 2009

Computer Upgrade: Done

"Once Every Three Years..."

Tedious and exhausting grunt work, not the less important for being so.

An operating system will degrade over a few years, and there exists the unpleasant but necessary duty every three years or so of getting a clean start: the upgrade to the computer system. And so after almost a week of tedious and stressful work, my computer system at home is upgraded. Everything is finally working (from OS down to all drivers and every software application installed and operational.

Actually, it was more of a OS upgrade with existing system transferred into a much better computer case. New lineup: Windows 7 (operating system on a 160 gb RAID), quad core cpu, eight internal hard disks (one 1tb RAID media disk), Logitec 9000 webcam (for Skype for Julia with Grandpa), nine external hard drives, Epson scanner, blue tooth hands-free Motorola headset, two HP 19” monitors for lots of space (Ultramon dual monitor), and a rockin’ new Antec 1200 Tower computer case. Basically, I migrated most of my last system into a new and bigger computer case and moved from XP to Windows 7. I had to re-install every last software application and setting. Exhausting.

Yes, I know: terabytes of hd space in one computer? The answer: they are already almost all filled! All extended family video going back to 1939, immediate family video from 2003 on up, all family pics (I guess I am the family archivist); every school paper and personal letter written since high school, every webpage and related document for my 8 domains, every email since 1996 (in addition to 13 email addresses and all their settings and folders); 210 gb of media for iTunes (every major work in the classical repertoire in iPod video format [me], plus most of the Disney oeuvre [daughter], all for my almost filled 160gb AppleTV downstairs); and everything from work over 17 years. Yes, lots and lots of audio and video, and thousands of pages of my typing in one format or another.

Yet I pause and wonder. I have so much media on all these hard disks from so many different aspects of my life over decades. A part of me wonders if, like a snake, I should shed my past skin and make way for the new one. Just throw all these digital archives in the trash and start fresh; no past at my back, only a future to embrace. Perhaps forgetting is important in life. But so is remembering, and my past also gives meaning to my present: as the cliché goes, who we are today depends on is what we were yesterday. Furthermore, so much of this digital media is so incredibly important to me: love letters and past resumes, video of my mother before she died, snap shots into my psyche in 1987 through my MS Word diary of the time. All my audio and video for iTunes (long ago I stopped doing disks). Then there is almost all my professional output and that which makes me able to make a living for myself and my family. The video and photos of the first minutes of my daughter’s life. All my financial and online banking through Quicken for a decade. Wedding photos and video. It is all organized and all backed up. It is complicated

A part of me is jealous of my peers who just start a new computer system with almost nothing to put on it. Everything old is new again and – fresh! – like a newborn baby they dive into the future. (Or, more accurately, like Athena they burst from the forehead of father Zeus full grown!) But it is not like that with me. And I have just a little less than contempt for full-grown adults who do not back up their data, suffer some hardware problem, and lose decades of digital artifacts forever. What could they have been thinking?

So I scrupulously back everything up to external hard drives using Acronis True Image 11, and I thank God hard disk prices drop reliably year after year. As they say, one can never be too thin, have too much money -- or have too much hard disk space or monitor display area!

And now that I gotten out of the way this onerous duty of upgrading the family computer system, I almost feel ready to hunker down and get ready for the arrival of daughter Elizabeth Anne Geib, expected to arrive in about two and a half months.

Time to return to zombie-land, sodden with fatigue. I am ready.

COMPUTER CASE FOR "SERIOUS GAMERS"

I don't play computer games, but I need the space and the fans for so many hard drives and video crunching.

November 25, 2009

"The Road"

A VERY "HUMAN" STORY, SET AMIDST GREAT INHUMANITY

"...this life-giving, tenacious connection between parent and child."

I found myself, on a rare morning with not much planned, reading that the film version of Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” opened today. A big fan of the novel, I attended the first possible showing today at 10:10 a.m. in the company of approximately six senior citizens. The film was not as good as the book -- but it was far, far from a failure. Kenneth Turan’s review, which I read today at breakfast, claimed the following: “An honorable, yet unfulfilling, attempt at filming Cormac McCarthy's unfilmable book.”

To the contrary, the film is very fulfilling. It is the magic and mystery of imaginative literature that it refracts reality and thereby sets in stark relief “truths” about human nature. Great fiction creates stories that are more “real” than real life, as it tells lies to get at truth. Cormac McCarthy paints a post-apocalyptic story that could not be more bleak, but that is only the setting of the story, not the story itself. Much more than destruction, desperation, wastage, cannibalism -- the world ending not in a “bang but a whimper” – the story is more about a father and a son and their bond. And, amazingly, by the end this life-giving, tenacious connection between parent and child redeems all the dark.

In my memory, I will remember this story less for the “unfilmable” vicissitudes that take place on “the road” and more for the savage, primal connection of blood to blood – that desire to do anything to protect one’s child. It is more a story of love and connection than of apocalypse and barbarism. It is a very “human” story, set amidst great inhumanity. But it is the inhumanity and “darkness of man’s heart” in the gray and black hue of the story that makes the white standout all the more.

It is brilliant art – perhaps the highest manifestation of our “humanness.” Creatures from other worlds should look to art such as this if they want to learn about this messy, contradictory species called homo sapiens. So horrible and so wonderful at the same time!

To the contrary, Mr. Turan. I found “On the Road” to be very fulfilling.

KENNETH TURAN OPINION:

"An honorable, yet unfulfilling, attempt at filming Cormac McCarthy's unfilmable book."

November 15, 2009

Riding the Malibu Canyons Again

A BLISSFUL AFTERNOON: A PHOTO ESSAY

"Oh, how I love to escape to the Malibu canyons for a bike ride!."

In the late morning of November 15, 2009 I drove to the Malibu canyons to ride along the Santa Monica Mountains. It has been a long time since I had been here.

Before marriage and larger life responsibilities, I used to escape to these canyons above Malibu for looong bike rides just about every weekend! Even as they physically exhausted – and even traumatized – me, they were spiritually relaxing and restorative. Here again for the first time in a year or two, the effect is the same.

Above is a view of Malibu Lake from Mulholland Highway.

Just hills and sage brush and trees and sun: the way Southern California should be. And it is oh so quiet here...

The desert landscape here goes more horizontal than vertical.

A few miles or so straight ahead and then the Santa Monica Mountains plunge straight down into the Pacific Ocean and the beach. I have ridden pretty all these canyons with much exertion and pleasure.

Groups of portly, hirsute Harley Davidson motorcyclists come blowing by me at high speed on these lonely roads: I look them and think, "Get off your motorcycle and get some exercise, you beer-sodden lazybones!" and they look at me and think, "What the hell is this guy doing out here in the middle of nowhere on a bicycle?" -- and after a moment's recognition, we blow by each other going in opposite directions.

Strange how even as I cannot make it out to these canyons to ride so much anymore, my body has a very accurate memory of the various hills: pain is an effective and enduring teacher to one's muscles.

I apologize for the low quality of this picture, as by necessity I am using my cell phone camera.

Some dozen miles beyond this mountain range lies Pacific Palisades and Santa Monica, California.

A verdant view of Lake Malibu.

Around this corner a clump of young men riding their high-performance "rice rocket" motorcycles passed by me going waaaay too fast. These canyons often witness a cat-and-mouse game between motorcyclists and police, and numerous times I have ridden by accident scenes with ambulance on scene where some motorcyclist took a turn too fast and went off the road.

A few luxury homes ring Malibu Lake for those who can afford them. A beautiful place to live, but for everyday life does one want to live so far removed from civilization -- reminds me of the year I lived near Thatcher School in Ojai!

Light from the sun gives this photo an appropriate aura of rays of lights permeating the valley.

Yes, there is all sort of trees and brush, but this desert terrain is almost always bone-dry -- which makes this area very susceptible to "fire storms" that can cover mile after miles of canyon and threaten homes and inhabitants.

If one travels about five miles in that direction, one will arrive at Leo Carrillo State Beach in Northern Malibu -- approaching the Ventura County border.

Off Kanan Road near Agoura Hills, the older brother of Jim Glantz lives not far from here...

Much to my surprise, towards the end of my bike ride there were hundreds and hundreds of cars lined up for almost a mile to get a Swine Flu H1N1 vaccine shot in Calabasas. Wow!

From what I could tell, there were all trying to get to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Dept. Malibu/Lost Hills Station which is just beyond the top of this hill on Agoura Road.

Finally, I arrived to see the above scene.

Finally, back to my car on the edge of the Malibu Creek State Park!

The intersection of Las Virgenes Road and Mulholland Highway: very crowded with cars, mostly of day hikers taking off into the state park beyond.

Bike safely secured to my car, I take off for a big lunch in Woodland Hills. I sit there in the warmth of the San Fernando Valley and leisurely read for three hours 200 pages of David Walker Howe's "What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848." All stress has left me.

After a great workout, beautiful scenes of nature, a hearty meal, and a relaxing read (all done in perfect solitude), I am ready to return to my regular life and responsibilities.

A RELAXED BODY, FULL STOMACH, AND ENGAGED MIND

David Walker Howe's "What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848"

November 04, 2009

Unsent Letter to the Editor

DOING MY CIVIC DUTY

After voting on November 3, 2009 local election...

I wrote the following letter to the editor for our local newspaper but was persuaded not to send it. It was considered impolitic. Alas, I resort to posting it here:

I would say a few words about the candidacy of Monique Dollone for the Ventura Unified School Board.
My wife, Maria Geib, was hired as a long-term substitute teacher at Montalvo Elementary School and eventually became a full-time teacher there. It was while Monique Dollone’s daughter was in Maria’s 4th grade class that Monique was arrested for violating a restraining order. I heard all year long from her about the stress and dissension. Monique Dollone brought to Maria’s classroom and school. The emotions were intense for everyone involved. Enormous amounts of energy were expended.
In running for the school board in the November 3rd election, Dollone claims to want to shake up the “status quo” in a “complacent” Ventura Unified School District. She hopes, in the words on her website, to ensure a “Quality Education for All Children all the time.” Both Maria and myself, teachers ourselves, would admit that this goal is nowhere close to being realized. There are too many mediocre instructors with tenure and too many clumsy, unimaginative administrators in the Ventura Unified School District. Too many students are far from ideal in their academic performance. And in our opinion, a few superstars and a few real stinkers punctuate this main of mediocrity. Monique Dollone would paint herself as a reformer of a public school system in need of reform.
But this is false. If the system needs improving, Monique is not the person for that job. Monique would bring her “burn down the barn to save it” philosophy that would lead to further dissension. It would, in our opinion, not lead to forward progress. It is much harder to build a barn than to burn it down. Escorted by police off the Montalvo Elementary School campus in steel bracelets, let this simple fact speak for itself against Monique Dollone’s campaign rhetoric.

Happy I was to see Monique Dollone lose in yesterday's election. But she plans to run again. Alas, the vagaries of local elections and city politics...

It was explained to me that with this letter I would offend both the putative "reformers" and the status quo "powers that be," leaving me between enemies with no allies. On the other hand, the letter says pretty much what I feel to be the truth, even if it be "impolitic." But I was reminded that even if the whole truth is a good thing, saying it out loud isn't.

How strange it is in adult life that we so rarely say exactly what we think. So little candor, so much posturing! Ah, democracy!

"RUNNING FOR SCHOOL BOARD..."

"But this is false. If the system needs improving, Monique is not the person for that job.".