Saturday, June 12, 2010

Explanations for Absence

Some day soon, I'm sure, the incredible power of computing hardware will be deployed where it belongs; in the direction of 'instant on.' I can imagine no reason anymore for the universal machine, which has to find a place in memory to park all of your Operating System and application choices and preferences. There is no reason any longer for the same physical machine to support so many different versions, deployments, distributions.

I'm that sick of the arms race between "software" (a useless term anymore) and ever faster hardware which just leaves me, in the end, waiting as long as I ever did for the infernal machine to let me do whatever it is I've set out to do.

Those long dialup negotiations have been replaced now with cellular setups with some little shim required to load so that they can meter and modulate your usage. There are all sorts of wireless encryption settings to negotiate, and only a fool would leave a machine connected permanently, without a lot of very expensive firewalling and intrusion detection machinery intervening between the loaded software and the wilds.

Then there's the need to monitor that, mostly automated, with, perhaps, some reasonably well-trained individual to monitor the rendered up reports. I understand now that some significant proportion of trading - and therefore of money made - on the stock market is simply algorithmic, nearly instantaneous and devoid of human reads of market trends based on any research. Am I the only one who thinks this might be a problem? Shouldn't the market reflect human reads of future trends? Factoring in a slice of desire, as in where do we want to go as a civilization?

With virtualization technology now deployable on the level of the application, there is no reason to allow any extrinsic influence to fiddle with the code. It should all be "hardware" in some virtual sense, instantly on and impregnable from attack short of power surging explosions. Most annoying of all is my phone, which has the Microsoft smartphony software on it. When it crashes I'm out of touch for what seems an eternity. They won't let me load on a different version of their software, so in the end, there's simply no excuse for this. Burn it in and make it work, bozos!

My phone's "state" should be permanent, like my Kindle's is, and it should respond to my touch that instantly, without consuming lots of power to be alert for my touch. This is a no-brainer, and I won't take it anymore what they do with my time and poise and equanimity.

But yeah, meanwhile, I've been absent from here because the time had come to move Dad out of Mom's house (you know, the one he worked his whole life to pay for, including her fussy decorations of it). He's been in a steady decline now for over a decade, finally having crossed the border they'd like to call dementia.

Everything looks very sudden when you poke your head in to take a look. You discover what Mom's been covering for. You find a lot of denial and acceptance of claims for presence which were memorized simulations of statements and phrasing which once did,,indeed, have presence. Which is a tough thing to realize when it's memory which is the thing most often pointed to as the absence. There is recall only of the positions, the postures, the verbal bullying. There is no presence "behind" the thing pointed to as absence.

Mom couldn't take it anymore, and so I've had to orchestrate a late-in-life divorce. Which isn't easy when the principals involved aren't anywhere near what you might call willing to "get" what has to change. It would be so much easier if there were tears and outrage and recriminations. Instead, there is a different act; a different script to follow.

Instead there's just confusion, together with a nascent offshoot of the healthcare industrial economy which is taking off just now. By 'nascent,' I mean they don't know what they're doing yet. Like kids drinking their first beer. Fed by the aging-out of the baby boomers' leading edge progenitors, who have neatly swept up all the postwar (I'm talking the Big One) wealth to provide for themselves castles in our sky. (Beware what you hope for)

Dad looked ahead, against Mom's disinclination, and purchased a spot in an insurance-based facility which would provide for nearly all eventualities as they lost their grip, physically and mentally, and their ability to manage independent lives. But Dad's never done any cooking or cleaning or laundry in the first place, and now it has to be admitted that Mom can't do it for him anymore. And, well, at the end of the day she quite clearly resents his presence.

Enter the middle child. Me. I'm burning out.

I wonder how closely drink mimics what is happening to them? You pretty much know that you aren't all there the way that you normally are, but only pretty much. Sometimes, belligerantly even, you insist to those around you that you are capable to do those things you used to do almost without thinking. "Why can't I drive?" Dad yells in outrage. "I can drive!!" As I spirit away his keys.

Sure, there is a knockout point. A blackout beyond which there is no more presence of the person who used to be there. That shutting off of power to the hardware. Shorting out the motherboard, pulling the plug. Or if the software goes all wonky and the system freezes up.

But this instance is rather more the reverse of that long and difficult process of growing up. It takes forever to boot up a person. Sometimes it's only in decline that the missing pieces are apparent. The stuff which never really did get internalized, no matter how well some simulation was enacted. Love, for instance, in Dad's case, seems to be something not really on offer during his upbringing. At least not the "normal" sort.

He did a fantastic job of acting it out though. Always and ever the good provider, thinking mostly most of his life about his wife and kids. Applying shades of rectitude to the ambiguities of moral choice. Knowing how to stay clear of feeling-laden manipulations to indulge some one person's sweet interests. Until, eventually, responsibilities discharged, he began to indulge his own. Ever the control freak, he never let his wife, my Mom, feel that she was free to do whatever she wanted, even while the budget for her indulgences was ballooning almost beyond belief.

Well, it would be beyond belief from the perspective of nearly every other person on the planet. They traveled over most of the globe. They bought the best summer place on the long and storied Canadian shore across from Buffalo. They furnished it with fine antiques, all covered with expensive fabrics. Everything's out of date, but so are they now, and always have been. Nerdy superannuated throwbacks to that time in memory's mist where we all think we'd like to live.

Not me! I can't wait, frankly, until my machinery boots up as fast as that Windows 98 machine, unreconstructed, that I had a chance to turn on the other day. What a pleasure!! Flick the switch, and there it is! Of course, you wouldn't dare plug it in to the network. It would be dead in an instant, subject to the predations of stuff that's still out there. Dormant for lack of prey. A chunk of dead meat into a school of piranha.

Some day soon, I will install a kill switch on my own personal hardware. It will be controlled algorithmically, just like those drunken kill switches some people install on their cars against their worse judgement. It will monitor my congruence with the stuff I used to write and say, and then at that moment when I've crossed the threshold of recognizeability, it will just pull the switch and I won't wake up from my sleep state. That would be so much easier on everyone, don't you think?

Well, sorry, gotta go. All those professionally trained people at the incredibly expensive eldercare facility are having trouble fitting Dad into any of their categorical boxes again. I have to intervene and demonstrate good socialization, rehearsing my deficits, preparing for my own demise. What a trip!!

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