Monthly Archives: August 2013

Livin’ the Dream

I was at the movies the other day, when an ad came on before the feature asking if my phone dreams while it sleeps. It’s a stupid question. Which is exactly what I’d thought the last time I was at the movies and was asked if my phone dreams while it sleeps. But for some reason this time I approached it with a ‘hey what the hell’ kind of attitude (I was in a slightly orange mood) and decided to play along. So, being successfully persuaded by the advertisement, I dutifully followed the instructions on the screen as to how to ensure my phone would have a good dream. And then after the movie I turned my phone on and went to see what it had dreamt during the few hours while it was asleep. I was embarrassed to find nothing but a link that wanted me to sign in with my Facebook credentials, and promptly reminded myself that phones are inanimate objects who most definitely can not dream and it was a stupid question in the first place.

While obviously my phone is bunch of plastic and metal parts that can make phone calls and play music and send texts that can not dream, we are none of those things. No we are bits of flesh and bone and brains. We can dream. And we do. Quite a lot I think. In our sleep, in our classes, during meetings, while we run, while we drive, we dream. Some dreams are weird; I’m definitely not the only one who has woken up from a dream and been either confused out of my mind or wondering what memory my brain could have possibly used to construct the dream that I just woke up from. Some dreams are nice and safe. Some dreams are hot and steamy. Some dreams are grand and wonderful. Some dreams are blood-chilling nightmares. Some dreams seem real. I’ve woken up after dreaming I missed a big due date in a panic for at least half a minute before I realized that the date was actually weeks away. And then, sometimes ‘real’ seems like a dream.

The real inspiration for this post ironically enough happened on Facebook. I saw a post as I was flying through my newsreel which was a picture and then a caption “livin’ the dream!” How often do we live our dreams? And how often do we live other peoples dreams. Because when you sit down and dream something up, it’s usually something that you want to see come to life. (Except the blood-chilling nightmares.) How often does that happen? I don’t think it happens nearly often enough. I’m not talking about the normal seeming dreams that you are comfortable sharing with just about anyone, because it seems that you will already be accepted for it. No I’m talking about the dreams that terrify and excite you at the same time. The one’s that you dream about only when no one else is watching. Those are the dreams that are game changing. Those are the one’s that will keep people coming back to hear about other dreams.

But this still leaves the question, how to live your dream. It’s like ideas. It’s really easy to dream. But it’s harder to live that dream. Take, for instance, America. We have had dreams. And, as a nation, we have accomplished some of those dreams. The moon. Emancipation. Independence. This whole thing started out as a dream. I wonder if the founding fathers were as dumbfounded as we get when our crazy ideas work. Sitting here with their own country, our country, this country, looking around at each other all thinking, ‘there’s no way that should have worked.’ But it did and now we have America, and the American dream.

I have a love, very strongly disagree (because hate is a strong word) relationship with the American dream, in that I feel both of those things toward it. The principles I love. I am American, and I am proud of it. That has a lot to do with that dream. But I don’t necessarily like how that dream has manifested itself over the past few decades. I mean what is it now? I believe we live with an understanding of a dream that is from our past. We have been living the American dream as it is manifested today for a while now. Education, family, house, it’s all great but times are changing, so the dream will change too. What is the dream for our future? Where are we headed? What is the dream going to be for our children, and their children? It would be silly for us to live with the dreams and goals and hopes of Abraham Lincoln, because those things have been dreamt and gotten and made reality. You can argue semantics about that all you want but the fact is you can’t own people anymore. No we need to dream new dreams. Without dreams, where will we go? We’ll be stuck. Stuck isn’t a good place to be.

Who knows what tomorrows dream will be. The possibilities are endless. With the world changing as rapidly as it does, and everything that is going on in the news today, your guess is as good as mine. But the dreamers will keep dreaming. And, someday, we’ll find it, the dream for tomorrow. Someone will live it. Others will follow. And then ‘livin the dream’ will be that. The thing is, if you dream your dreams, and live your dreams, then you’ll always be livin the dream. So as great philosopher Aerosmith once said, dream on. Then live on. See you next week.

QWERTY

Google is wonderful thing. Can you imagine a world where if you wonder something you have to go get out the family horse or brontosaurus or pterodactyl, saddle it up, and then ride it to the library uphill both ways in a blizzard, and then ask the cranky old librarian (she had to ride there in a blizzard too) to help you scour the vast collection of encyclopedias until you find what ever it is that you were wondering? And then that answer inevitably leads to another thing to wonder as soon as you put the pterodactyl tack away back at the ranch. Man. Old people really had it tough. Google is great. For the young people reading this wondering what an encyclopedia is, it’s the beta release of wikipedia. In fact, here’s a great wikipedia page about it. Anyways, I like google because you can be sitting down on the couch or in your car, or for that matter standing naked in your living room, and think of something to wonder and go over to your internet device and punch a few letters into google and suddenly ANSWER. Which is exactly what happened to me the other day when I was looking at my keyboard.

I was in fact in the living room (but I wasn’t naked) and I was looking at the keyboard on my computer, and I suddenly began to wonder: where did the seemingly random layout of modern keyboards come from? So since I was conveniently already right in front of my internet device, I hit a few keys and clicked a few buttons and voylah, answers appeared. Now I had formed a little guess as to where the layout had come from before looking at any of the answers as is common when you wander into something to wonder, and do you know what…I was dead wrong. See I had really wanted the answer to be that the modern keyboard layout was something that was hashed out by some human factors engineers in a room with some whiteboards with words like ‘ergonomics’ and ‘anthropometry’ written on them. But no. No, in fact that’s not it at all what-so-ever. The truth is that the modern keyboard that we are all familiar with today was actually created to make typing HARDER for all of us. Yes ladies and gentlemen cry out in anger, you are intentionally being burdened every time you sit down to type some words into google when you wonder something. Well, sort of.

You see, back in the olden days where the opening paragraph of this post actually happened, a dude named Christopher Latham Sholes designed some typewriters. Here’s another wikipedia page for the young people. The original keyboard layout was believe it or not based on a piano, and didn’t include the digits 1 or 0. Then there were other designs that were similar to the layout we have today with all the letters jumbled around, which were actually designed for typing efficiency, based on letter pairings and commonly used words, with ergonomics and anthropometry. Then the typists of the 1800’s got too good at typing, and the machines actually started jamming; the keys would not return back to the neutral unpressed position fast enough to support the typists pace. So to solve this problem, Sholes came up with the modern QWERTY layout that is used on your computer. (Unless you are in Germany, France, or some other European countries. Then it might be AZERTY or QWERTZ, but just pretend.) This new layout solved the jamming problem. I found this out and said oh cool. And went about my business. But then, I wondered. Changing the keyboard layout has no affect on the mechanical process of pressing a key, so how did that solve a mechanical problem? Well, Mr. Sholes designed a keyboard so inefficient that it actually slowed the typists down enough that the typewriters no longer jammed. So he solved a problem that already existed by creating another problem. But it worked, so it caught on. If it’s stupid, but works, it’s not stupid.

Now some of you may be wondering at this point, if the QWERTY keyboard was designed to solve a problem that no longer exists with modern keyboards, why do we still use it? Good question. We have become so efficient at being inefficient that it would actually be more inefficient to transition to an efficient keyboard design than it would be to continue using the old one. Whew. Those were some words. It’s really because we’re American and screw the metric system and things that make sense. God bless America. For those wondering there were more efficient keyboard designs proposed like the Dvorak Simplified Keyboard, but we are so stubborn they never caught on. So there, my wonders about the modern keyboard design were satisfied for the time being. But the story stuck with me.

I mean, there are two big aspects of this story that I find stand out in my head. First is the fact that we still use today the solution to a problem that hasn’t existed for some time now. It goes to show how if no-one wonders, modern society can be overtaken by things that really have no good reason. It’d be like if we still tarred and feather tax collectors. Preposterous. But we type away and think nothing of it. The second is the nature of the solution. Instead of designing a better linkage system, or some mechanical solution that would have actually solved the problem, there was just a shuffling around of keys to force the typing efficiency backwards so that the original problem was no longer a problem any more at that instant. You could say, it wasn’t a Steve Jobs solution. Yes, I just saw the movie Jobs this past weekend.

So this is great and all, and you probably learned something about typewriters and why they keys on your keyboard, or maybe not, but in any event, at the end of the day, why does it matter? Because I believe there is this story really isn’t about typewriters and keyboards. No I think it’s really about out of the box thinking and old squabbles that are now outdated. Maybe there’s someone in your life who you’ve been out of contact with for some reason, but that reason is something old that has gone away with time. Often it’s easier to solve the problem by not really solving the problem. I know it seems easier to me a lot. Maybe this story will inspire you and me to not take a shortcut and actually fix something that pops up in our future. And maybe we can find our answers in our relationships and personal lives and work lives for all the things that symbolize our own qwerty keyboards. Because if we look, I think we can all find them. And maybe we won’t be too stubborn to fix them.

Well, I’m off to the store for some milk, gotta go saddle up my pterodactyl. See you next week.

Back to Reality

Well, it’s Wednesday, which is I have decidedly dedicated as blog day. And on this Wednesday, August 14th, 2013, I have been thinking about nature, and parks, and a lot of other things, like work, and as always airplanes. I’ve also been thinking about running, and a whole bunch of other stuff I’m sure. I could probably fill this blog up with things that I think throughout the day, and while I sitting here on the couch typing this think that’s not a half bad idea, it’d probably bore you out of your mind while simultaneously scaring you enough to keep you from falling asleep, so I will refrain. I’ll also preface this by saying if you are a person who is seeking answers, you can stop reading because the following post has basically none of those. Now, bringing it back to reality, what I’m going to write about is just that, reality.

I happened to turn on the television to the science channel, where Morgan Freeman’s epic voice was narrating a program that was telling me how we have false realities that we live in and how we create illusions for ourselves. All sorts of really interesting things. And it got me thinking about all of that. Reality. What is it? To tell you the truth I really have no idea. Where do we live? In reality? Well, I’m not a physicist; I don’t even play one on tv, but, I can tell you that it is very very easy to be caught up in illusion. Because there are illusions all around us. Illusions about love, illusions about life. According to a website I found on the internet, we spend as children on average 300 more hours per year watching tv than we do in school. And over the course of life will waste 9 years entranced by a bunch of pixels. Or, if you’re old school, some gasses being accelerated at your face in little tubes. So, for 9 years, that is your reality.

Which is plenty cool and all, there are actually some educational brain engaging television programs (which is the majority of what we all watch I’m like 89% positive) but the thing about that is…we can see the outside of that cave. I mean, we can just walk outside. Boom. There it is. And that is reality. Somehow, when I simplify it, that I always seem to associate outside with reality. It might be the cave thing, or it might be that outside is less untouched by man than inside. Because inside is our own little reality. I mean we have the same laws of physics and gravity still points down. But we can create our own little worlds. In your house, maybe everyone always takes their shoes off, and your kids think that that’s how reality is, in everyone’s home, everyone always takes their shoes off. But then someone enters your reality, or you enter someone else’s where things are different, and reality is altered a little bit. It’s not the same everywhere. Which, I guess when you get down to it, is something that is true about all of our realities. It’s probably not the same everywhere.

Outside is a better reality I think than inside because we, as humans, are really good at creating false realities. Maybe intentionally, maybe unintentionally, we do it. So the only place that is really the reality that we are supposed to be experiencing is the places where we have yet to touch as a race. The places exist. There is a lot of wilderness that we have yet to assert our false realities upon. Spending time there, I think, is what really brings us back to reality. It’s what attracts me to the national parks Teddy Roosevelt so insightfully thought of designating. The beauty of those places is that, we aren’t there. We just visit. And we can go to places like Yellowstone and Bryce Canyon and spend days and weeks and months there and maybe, just maybe, not even see another person. It is the way it was created. Kind of. Because weather and water and things that we have learned and think we understand and have labelled science explain how it has changed. But the things that changed it were also created by the same Dude so it kinda works, in my reality. I live in a little false one that myself and others have created and the place outside grounds me back to earth. Reality. And puns. And even in dreams, we can find little bits of reality.

Flying is something that had long been a dream of man until the Wright brothers came along and decided to actually do it. So now we live in a world where flying is a reality. It is something that we can go and experience. And that’s great. But even with that there are illusions. A lot of these work there way into instrument flying, when the pilot has to rely on the instruments in the cockpit to fly the airplane. For instance rolling out of a steep turn causes the instruments to indicate a turn in the opposite direction. This, and the other illusions, are of course all overcome by a smart pilot who is familiar with the realities of flying and knows what is actually going on. So despite the falsities and illusions that are all around it is still possible to be in tune with reality.

There are all kinds of questions that can now be asked about if ‘outside’ is really reality and other dimensions and all that stuff you could have learned if you payed more attention in physics. And I have no idea about any of those. But on a level that is closer to our hearts, realities have to do with our daily lives. The people that we really are vs. the people who we think we are. And maybe, just maybe when we stop pretending to be the people who we think we are, and accept and be the reality of who we really are, we can find things like happiness and love and the things we tried to find by being illusions. Maybe it’s when science and religion all come together. Then again, maybe it’s not. ¬†Goodnight world, keep it real.

I really meant to love you

There’s something about a good shoot ’em up movie that really brings out the man in most men. I don’t know quite what it is. It could be the fast cars, or hot girls, the large explosions or the icy cool devil may care attitude of the heroes…or the villians, I’m not here to judge. But regardless of how good or bad the plot to any high testosterone action film is, we are drawn to it like a moth to one of those zappy lights that completes any hot summer cabin you aren’t quite thrilled to stay at. Now ladies don’t revel in our weakness, put on a sappy chick flick and it’s the same thing. Though I don’t quite get what attracts you gals to those movies (or maybe I do and social protocols forbid me from admitting it), each gender has that type of film that, no matter what, seems to bring us to the theatres and keeps us sitting there, mesmerized in the glow of the big screen, while the heroes (or newlyweds) ride of into the sunset. I recently went to see one of these movies and it’s got me thinking about something, and that is…well…why?

I think that it’s actually something that is plaguing us a bit now-a-days, and that thing is the idea. These films are both very romantic in their ways…very idealistic. Look, ideas again. We like ideas. We like idealistic. Idealistic is nice. It’s safe. If we like an idea…and it’s a bad idea, well then after all, it was just an idea, wasn’t it? And if it turns out it’s a good idea, well then good for us, we liked it even when it was just an idea! Win, win. Ideas are great. We need ideas. It’s ideas that move us forwards. I mean it was someone’s idea that got us to the moon. It was someone’s idea that got us the lightbulb. It was someone’s idea that got us all of our firsts as a people. Someone thought of it, and other’s believed it. And now there are footsteps on the moon and lightbulbs when it’s dark. And we can sit here and say look at the great men who thought of that, and the one’s who believed it. Hurah, here we are bathed in artificial light reveling in ideas and achievements of those who came before us holding our thumb over the moon with a passing thought wondering if the earth is really that big at the other end, or maybe no thought at all. And that’s where we stumble.

Ideas are wonderful. They are completely risk free. You can have an idea all you want and if you don’t do anything about it, no-one is the wiser. It’s when you put that idea on paper that things start to get tricky. It’s when you turn that idea into something more, that’s what terrifies us. The idea of something is really easy for us to champion. “Oh yeah, that’s a great idea”, or “I really like the idea of [insert idea here.]” We all have those things that we think are great ideas. Or those idealistic characters that we all secretly want to be. Like Agent Gibbs on NCIS. Always knowing everything, attractive, tough, smart. But we are where we are, because it’s safe. I really like the idea of being a wayward aviator flying dangerous bush jobs in Alaska with some manly taildragger aeroplane that emits pure testosterone in plumes of flame for exhaust…but I’m still here in Florida, because liking the idea is safer. Or loving something, or even someone. What an idea that is.

If there is or ever was something that stopped you right where you stand, that’s a good candidate. I know I’m one of the last people that should be writing about love…I don’t understand it in the least bit. Where I have felt it, it is truly an overwhelming emotion, and one that I think isn’t very easy to come by anymore. See it’s all in that putting your ideas down on paper step. That’s the doosey, that’s the killer. When it’s an idea like the lightbulb or going to the moon, there is math and science and hard work and determination and perseverance that can get you there. And in the end if you fail, there’s always the adage in extraordinary attempts, even failure is glorious. But with love, it doesn’t quite work that way. No with love it’s heart and soul and you that gets put out there, it’s pieces that you can’t take back. When you write it down on paper, with ink, pouring out yourself to whoever it is, failure is heart wrenching. It’s bad enough when it’s just you, when it’s not on paper, when nobody knows but you. When it’s love, even admitting it to yourself is terrifying. Because when it’s real honest love, it IS kind of terrifying. Our society has synonymized love with things like sex and lust, and the things that separate the real heroes from the real villains, and real love kind of leaves us like a dear in headlamps. So it’s something that is a really great idea.

There was a line in the film that I recently saw that got me going about all of this, and it was the answer to a question. The hot girl asked the devil may care hero, “did you ever really love me?” And his answer was, “I really meant to love you.” I really meant to love you. It was a really great idea, but I never got around to it. It was something that I thought about, and I thought it would be good, but somehow I just didn’t do it. It’s the I really meant to part that is the kicker. I really mean to too often. I really meant to study more. I really meant to start this project a week earlier. I really meant to return that phone call, or that email. But love. I really meant to love you. To write that love letter, to do all those things you do when you love someone, whatever those things are. I don’t know if it’s that line or the unspoken one that comes after it that sticks with me the most. Because the next words are “but I didn’t.” In the end, no matter how hard you really mean to, how much you champion an idea, how hard you think something, it’s still ends with but I didn’t. What’s more terrifying? Writing the love letter, or having to say but I didn’t? I honestly don’t know.

I know this whole thing is an idea, and that ideas are great. I know that I’ve really meant to but I didn’t too many times for my own liking. I know that when it comes to love you should probably ignore everything I have to say about it. I know that one day we’ll all have to either own up to a life of really meaning to or a life of but I didn’t. I know that tomorrow always seems to be the start of the rest of your life. And that’s about all I know. The rest is speculation. You and I will sit here nice and safe and really mean to. Or maybe one of us will be more than just an idea, and be something and fail miserably in flames, and maybe one of us won’t. And our children can talk about the ideas that person had and the ones who believed them. Until then, we’ve got shoot ’em ups and chick flicks to look forward to.