Thursday, December 31, 2009

Blog name has changed. Like you care, right?

Clarity2009 is now Clarity2010.

Don't ask me why. It just seemed the thing to do.

Please change your bookmarks and Bloglists. Or not.

Click HERE (or HERE or HERE) to redirect to the new blog.

See you there.

(Note: for those of you unable to click on words, due to religious reasons or whatever, it's ok to click on the picture instead. Just click on the front guy's foot. Of course it won't take you to the new blog if you do that. Just kidding. Or maybe not. Clicking the picture might take you to Lord Likely's basement. Be brave.)

New Year, New Blog

I hope you all will follow my blog into the new year. It has been a great 2009. Thank you for your support.


Goodbye Hello

[click on picture to humongafy]

This is the last actual post for Clarity2009, since the year is about to end.

There is a moon out tonight. A full moon. I am beginning to turn into a werewolf and all my neighbors have their guns loaded and ready to celebrate the new year at midnight. What to do, what to do.

Debbie told me tonight's moon is a blue moon. My calendar this year didn't have the moon cycles shown on it, so I didn't know that. I love blue moons. OWwwoooooooo....

It is the last full moon of the year of course, though not the last full moon of the decade like SOME of you think. I'm looking at YOU Alison... :)

I don't know if tonight's blue moon is the last blue moon of the decade. Wait here and I will go figure it out. [tap tap tap tap] Ok, I'm back. Nope, no more blue moons this decade. No more until August 31, 2012. Sigh. I love blue moons. I guess I already said that.

How to count.

Ask your child to count to ten. Write down the number he says first. Remember it. See?... Easy as pie.

We start counting with one. If we count to 10, the last number is .... wait for it... TEN!

1 A.D. was the first year. 1900 was the last year of the 19th century; 1901 was the first year of the 20th century.

So we still have another year to make the first decade of the new millennium a rousing success. I hope you do. I will do my part.

Happy New Year to you all.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


Americans are both blessed and cursed.

It has not always been so throughout our history, of course, but today - and for a very long time now - we have been steeped in a culture that constantly urges us to excel, to rise to the top, to be a "winner", whatever that really means.

It's not just Americans, of course. We have slowly dragged much of the rest of the Western World with us into the endless rat race of one-upmanship and conspicuous consumerism.

If you are a "normal" American, you are in debt. Sometimes scarily so. Gone are the days of the proud self-sufficiency that used to be the hallmark of Traditional America. It would have been unthinkable to Americans only 40 years ago to be heavily mortgaged to the Communist Red Chinese (as we used to call them) and to not even be able to make plastic parts ourselves, much less steel. Perhaps that's an exaggeration, but not so much: as I placed the plastic Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus figures on my front lawn this year, I couldn't help but notice the ubiquitous "Made in China" Americans are now so familiar with. I wonder what the common Chinese workers must think we are like in their minds as they make this stuff?

If it is true that contentment comes from living within yourself and your means, then we are surely the most discontented people on earth. We are especially reminded at this time of year of our rush to consume. We fight to buy things we don't need and, in truth, don't want. All around us we are constantly barraged with advertising. Buy now, pay later. Pay forever.

But we also are about to enter the new year, and with it another opportunity for personal renewal - a chance to mend our ways. It's always a good time to resolve to get one's financial house in order and begin making a plan to return to self-sufficiency.

Living within one's means and actual needs, and resisting the constant urge to consume, is not only a step towards a more sane life, it is an actual triumph in today's world. If you would know contentment, you will first learn to say no to yourself. Coming to practice deferred gratification is perhaps the best gift we can give ourselves in the new year.

This new year, resolve to "simplify". You would be in good company. Take care.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Nanoseconds can be important in the right game

You probably already know - or SHOULD know - that computing and the computer you so much take for granted today owe their existence, in large part, to women. Men helped, of course, here and there, but women provided much of the brainpower it took to come up with such a complex contraption.

The first computer programmer, by definition at least, is considered to be Ada Lovelace (1802-1852), the only legitimate child of Lord Byron. She encoded an algorithm (Al Gore rhythm?) in a form to be processed by a machine. She was inspired to do so by Charles Babbage's invention of what was then known as an "Analytical Engine". She also envisioned that someday computers could become much more than simply number crunchers. Even Babbage didn't dream of that.

Women have been a part of the development of the computer and of programming it down through the years ever since. My personal favorite is a lady named Grace Hopper (pictured at the top of this post.) Grace was a rather weirdly wonderful (somewhat eccentric, I mean) brainy lady who rose to the rank of Admiral in the U.S. Navy, and who had a profound influence on early computing. She used to hand out lengths of wire, somewhat short of 12 inches in length to U.S. Naval Academy cadets at Annapolis with an admonition to "remember your nanoseconds" (The wires being the length of space an electromagnetic wave travels in a billionth of a second.) The point was to remind her computer programming students not to waste nanoseconds. Occasionally she would bring in a 1000-foot roll of wire to show them what a microsecond looked like in those terms. Well, I guess you had to be there.

Grace is credited with inventing the early computer programming language COBOL and developed the first compiler. Words and phrases like "subroutines", "formula translation", "relative addressing", linking loader", "code optimization", and "symbolic manipulation", are still fundamental to digital computing and exist in large part because of Graces pioneering in the field. If you've ever had a "bug" in your program, you owe that word to Grace as well because ever since she removed an actual dead moth from her equipment, she referred to corrective programming as "debugging" work. She once claimed she forced computers to learn English because she was too lazy to learn theirs. Not true, of course - she understood their language perfectly well- but many programmers today are thankful they can type programs in (mostly) simple English.

Thank you, as usual, Wikipedia, for helping me fill in specifics.

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