Archive for the ‘Hi Tech’ Category

My father was a distinctly midcentury man.

He was a man of tract homes and manual transmissions, cigarettes and pipe tobacco, straw hats and huaraches, sand dunes and surf fishing, Frank Sinatra and Mel Tormé, pancakes with his kids on Saturday morning and roasted meats with his dad at the table on Sunday nights.  He was a dry martini/red wine with ice kind of guy: uncomplicated, elemental, rustic, reserved.

And yet, in his final decade, I found him nearly indecipherable. (more…)

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I spent the last week at war.

In the wee hours, late last week, I awoke to email alerts regarding my personal Facebook account. It had been disabled.

My first thought was that one of my more political posts had rubbed someone the wrong way and they’d reported me, but as I investigated, I learned that, no, someone had gained access to my account and had done something that violated Community Standards.

I’d been hacked.

I tried to recover control, but Facebook’s algorithms denied me and summarily deactivated my account. This also deactivated the “author” page I ran on Facebook, where I echo posts from here. As far as Facebook was concerned, I was a non-entity. (more…)

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Last month, I mentioned that I’d once again been in the hot seat, interviewing for a new position at my firm. During the intervening weeks, it has been a situation of “hurry up and wait.” First, the supervisor was on vacation, then they had to interview more people. Then the supervisor took another week off (hey, it’s summer and, you know, kids), and then they had one more interview to do.

Two weeks ago, though, HR called and said they wanted to move forward with my application. That meant checking my references, and that meant talking to my current manager.

“He’s on vacation,” I said, “and really, I’ve only been with him for a couple of weeks, so maybe you should talk to my previous manager.”

Nope. Gotta talk to the one currently in charge.

More waiting. (more…)

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My father was an analog man.

Etched Limestone Lithography Block

The grandson of a charcoal burner (yes, that was a thing), the son of a cement truck driver, my father was an artist by passion and a lithographer by trade, back in the day when his trade was not far removed from actual litho-graphy, i.e., etching graphics on hunks of limestone (like the one I still have, pictured, right).

As his life progressed, the world moved from Ford’s Model T to Tesla’s Model 3, from The Great Depression to The Great Recession, from flying across the Atlantic to flying to the Moon and Mars, and from the wireless and talkies to smart phones and streaming video. Yet through it all, he managed to never use a computer, even when his industry embraced the technology of digital scanning, imagery, and on-demand printing. The closest he got to the digital world was a DVD player (which he rarely employed, preferring broadcast television) and his little clamshell phone (which he used only in emergencies, and often not even then). (more…)

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I am a child of the Space Race.

The heroes of my early youth (aside from Walt Disney and JFK) were the astronauts of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions. Without fail, I would sit down in front of our little black-and-white television to watch every launch, every splashdown. It never got old, especially during the “seven minutes of terror” during re-entry. I read every article I could find about the programs. I assembled scale models of the boosters and capsules. I used words like “gantry” and “gimbal,” and could instruct adults on the meanings of pitch, roll, yaw, and skew.

As the decade progressed, the space race gave me something to focus on, something other than missile crises, assassinations, Cold War saber-rattling, and duck-and-cover exercises. I cheered with each liftoff and exulted at each return.

Then came Apollo 11.

Apollo 11 was different. Apollo 11 was much more than a liftoff and return. It was a culmination of years of rapt attention. The prospect of a lunar landing would have been enough, but a man on the moon? A man walking on that virginal orb, that silvery fingernail lunette, that icon of the feminine, ever-constant yet ever-changing, both young and ancient at the same time? It filled me with wonder, amazement, anxiety, and the absolute knowledge that, if it happened, if tragedy stayed its hand and we succeeded, the world would never be the same.

Then, on July 21, 1969, Neil and Buzz stepped out on the grey dust of the Sea of Tranquility, and the world looked up in awe.

That year, for my birthday I was given the Revell 1/96 scale Apollo 11 Columbia and Eagle kit, which came with a bit of gold-colored foil to wrap around the base of the LEM, and it was the coolest thing ever. I did not approach this build with my usual pubescent fervor. Oh, no. This kit I assembled like a surgeon, removing parts from their runners with X-Acto precision, shaving flash and sprue from the delicate pieces, applying glue with a sparing hand, and affixing the fragile decals of flag and “UNITED STATES” with a steadiness acquired during years of model-building.

The Columbia and the Eagle hung from my bedroom ceiling, a place of honor where, at night, the LEM’s gold foil glinted in the light from the moon their namesakes had visited. Over time, they were joined by the Orion and Moebius (2001: A Space Odyssey), the Hawk (Space: 1999), X-Wings and TIE fighters (do I really need to tell you where they’re from?) until, dusty and cobwebbed, I finally gave them to my kid brothers to enjoy.

With this as prologue, you can imagine my squee-ful reaction when I learned that I could actually own a piece of Apollo history. It took a nanosecond to make the decision.

The item is not impressive. It’s not a moon rock or a dial or a vintage mission patch. But it is special to me.

Pictured above, encased in a Lucite box, it is a tiny square of the kapton thermal protection blanket that covered Columbia, the Apollo 11 command module. This little square has been to the moon and back. Half a million miles. Pretty damned amazing.

And it makes me very, very happy.


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Today, at work, I began to clean out my desk.

Yes, after being an employee of this firm for over ten thousand days, the company has asked me to leave.

Sort of.


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Most everyone knows that I hate single-taskers in the kitchen . . . those items in your utensil drawer or the cupboard that only do one thing. If your kitchen is anything like mine (i.e., galley style layout), you know that I have limited storage space and even greater limits on counter space. So, if I’m going to allow a single-tasker into my kitchen, it has to do an amazing job and it has to take up minimal space. (Example: the Norpro bean slicer; small in size, but an absolute champ at slicing haricot vert lengthwise.)

With that in mind, many of my friends were surprised to hear that, for a holiday present, I had purchased a sous vide cooker. “Sous vide” (pronounced “soo veed,” meaning “under vacuum”) is a cooking technique, long used by professionals, that is now enjoying a resurgence among foodies. (more…)

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