Monday, September 17, 2007

Life, The Internet, and Everything

AS everyone knows, you can find information about anything on the Internet. All you have to do is Google it. It says a lot for the prevalence of search engines that we have made them into a verb.

I can remember being without the Internet. All those frustrating trips to libraries whenever I wanted to look something up. Endless unanswered questions crammed my brain. Now, whenever I have a question there's Wickipedia.

Not that I believe everything I read on Wicki. Sometimes the entries are sketchy or biased, but I have to admire it for the sheer volume of entries. Everything is cataloged, from Anime to Zebras. People seem to have time on their hands, enough time to write obsessively on their favorite subjects.

Of course, Wicki just scratches the surface of the knowledge that's presented on the web. There are pages of information on anything. Ancient witch signs, cars of the 1930's, the Battle of Leyte Gulf. You name it, and someone has written something about it.

As a social experiment the Internet fascinates me. It connects people across the world, people that have never travelled beyond their home towns can discuss anything with someone across the world. The web has constricted the Earth, bound it up with endless packets of information. The world has uploaded its collective brain, and the power and scope of the knowledge is amazing.

I love the Internet, and I can't wait for the time when we'll all be connected, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. I dream of direct neural net access, as quick as thought and twice as broad. We will all have two minds, our own consciousness and the infinite net. I'm sure it will lead to many problems, yet I also think it will broaden the human experience and help us to evolve. Until that day, Google will remain my steadfast friend.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Sharkey, Extra Large

I was going through old family photographs the other day, and I came across one of me standing outside the Aquarium when I was two years old. On the back, my father had written the date, and a note that I had been fascinated by the sharks. It seem I wondered how they kept all of those teeth clean.

I had no idea that my love affair with sharks had started so young. As a child of about ten, I remember reading endlessly about sharks, and taking trips to the Aquarium when we were on vacation. Those days, I lived in South Africa, and the Aquarium I would visit was in Durban. It was a poorly lit place, with bubble windows, and I used to feel that I was deep underwater with the fish. There were two ways to observe the sharks. One could watch through the windows, peering into the murky water, or one could climb up to the roof and stare down into the open tank. I would spend hours there.

I'm spoiled now. I live a few hours from Baltimore Aquarium, and I've been to Sea World. Last time I was in South Africa I went back to that old Aquarium, and it was depressing. The displays were old and cramped, and the only thrill that remained was the roof and the tantalising closeness of the sharks as they knifed through the water.

Don't get me wrong. I have no desire to be in the water with the sharks. I have a health respect for those teeth. Yet to be so close was an exhilarating thing.

I collect stuffed sharks. The first, Sharkey one, I bought at the Aquarium in New Orleans. He was a Great White, and I kept him in my handbag for years, until one day he mysteriously disappeared. I like to think that he returned to the ocean. The second, Hammurabi the Hammerhead, was given to me by a friend. As was Sharkey Too, another Great White. He lives in my handbag now. Sharkey Three is a three foot long behemoth, he swims eternally on top of a curio cabinet in my lounge.

Shark Week on the Discovery Channel is a joy to me. So many sharks, all crammed into seven days. I tape shows to watch and re-watch.

I'm not sure where my fascination came from, but I'm glad I have it. Sharks are wonderful living fossils, an essential part of the ecosystem and graceful predatory creatures. Still, I have to wonder as I did so many years ago, how DO they keep those teeth clean?

Labor Day Blues

I have the Labor Day blues. I've often said I'm solar powered, I need a certain level of sunlight to feel energized. When the sunlight levels drop in the winter, and it's too cold to go outside, I find myself turning into a grouchy, hibernating bear. Nothing gets accomplished, the months just pass in a grey blur. Depression sets in, and it becomes a chore to get simple things accomplished. My writing suffers most of all.

So, I'm not happy that Labor Day has arrived so quickly. It seems that just yesterday it was spring. It doesn't help that this summer was wonderful, not too hot and humid, with gentle breezes and gloriously sunny days.

Still, my garden will be happy about the change in weather. All the plants are sunburned and stressed, and probably will be happy to go to sleep. Every year I swear that I'm going to pay more attention to the garden, but every year I just end up doing the bare minimum to keep it tidy and weed free. This summer I certainly could have watered it more.

Today I watched the birds outside, and wondered how many of them would be flying south for the winter. I feel jealous. If I could fly to warmer, sunnier climes then I wouldn't have to suffer through the dull days and cold nights. I could winter on a beach in the tropics.

Yet there are things about the colder seasons that I love. I love the show of leaves in autumn, the crisp days, and walking through piles of leaves. I love the earthy scent of the air, Halloween and cider. In winter, I love the silence after a fall of snow, the way the white crystals cling to branches and blanket the ground. I love snuggling up with a hot cup of tea and a blanket. I love snow days that force my family to remain home with me, drinking hot chocolate and eating ginger cookies.

That's why I'm still happy to live in the North, instead of relocating South. The seasons are an ever changing calendar that I can relate to, no matter how the seasons affect me. Maybe this year I'll just buy a sunlamp.