Monday, February 28, 2005

Q: What's the major drawback of Open Source

A: Nobody to sue.

Now that I’ve spent weeks making public the inner most workings of my daily neurotic fretting, I’ve been thinking that I really should be doing more tech blogging. After all I do code for a living and have managed to make a reasonable, although sometimes turbulent livelihood in the software industry. So, I’ve been trying to think of some sort of topic that I could expound upon in a dazzling way that demonstrates my infinite technical wisdom and abundant programming prowess. Can't do it. I just don't remember stuff any more, nor do I want to. I simply leave little notes to myself in the form of browser bookmarks, overly verbose function names, and little scribbles in a little black notebook that my girlfriend gave me.

(Sort of weird that when you get to be fifty years old and you are involved with a woman with whom you have no matrimonial tie, the moniker for the relationship becomes that which you used by in High School. Sorta of weirder that the moniker fits most of the times. You’d think that I’d have learned a thing or two about the nature and execution of intimate relationships with the opposite sex since the horror of adolescence.)

Yet, a few days ago I was slinging some .NET code against a mySQL database and the transactions were behaving like an eight year old that wanted to go to the bathroom more than put away his toys. The transaction would fail, but only some of the data writes would rollback. Needless to say I found the scenario less than comforting in that we’re talking about handling real financial records. I wondered if betting a portion of the enterprise's cash disbursement behavior on a technology that is Open Source and wonderfully free for the download was wise. But I figure, hey with Apache running 60% of the web servers in the known universe, who am I to bitch?

Still things were not happening in the program in the way that I wanted them to. Most likely there was something in my code that was making the numbers crunch in a somewhat asymmetrical, somewhat unreliable manner. I’ve been doing this long enough to know that if something sucks, it isn’t going to get better just by blaming the tool or obsessively recompiling the code. But misery loves company. So I lamented to Frank, the guy who works over next to me, in a cube distinctly different than mine. Frank was also a bit antsy about Open Source in the Enterprise, not that there is anything more abhorrent about the technology than that which the commercial providers sell for hard cash, a government PO or a credit card with a CNP number.

Our big qualm was this: That if something goes wrong in our code, and it is not of our own doing, then who do we sue? Some 17 year old graduate school prodigy who is writing brain surgery kernel code as a way to get a Ph. D. in Computer Science and impress girls, as if all the girls we wanted in High School really care about the delicacies of programming an operating system?

I mean we’re modern software developers. We know all about writing tight efficient loops, avoiding null pointers, doing proper error handling, the fundamentals of design patterns, attracting venture capital, protecting intellectual property, defining a proper exit strategy, and compensatory litigation. We demand reliability and accountability. We know the meaning of treble damages.

After all we've got a world to run here for chissakes; can we really leave the well being of our ego and our patron's wealth to the whims of a cooperative group that might just have ulterior motives that might be of benefit to a certain company that has a name with three letters and promotes blue suits and red ties and is rival to a company that is headquartered in an area of the world where it rains a lot? The Trojan War was not a David and Goliath thing. There was no little guy involved. Both Troy and Greece knew a thing or two about waging war.

Besides, what good is a product if you can't sue the manufacturer?

And to think, at one time all we wanted to do was put a man on the moon and change the world.

I’m tired now. I am going to bed.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Q: Want to have fun?

A: Try finding a therapist when you are having money issues.

OK, this is a fast one because the rain has finally stopped for a few days here in once again sunny Los Angeles and I need to get to the beach to do my fretting.

In case you don’t know, I have been not feeling so good on the emotional end lately. Many people have been concerned and have made suggestions about various forms of psychotherapy and psychotherapists. Most of these suggestions were quite good.

So, I followed up on them while also giving careful, intropsective, logical, albeit irrational consideration to my mental distresses.

All of the psychotherapists that I talked to got to their fee within the first five minutes of conversation. Fees ranged from $150 to $200 an hour. One said that he did offer sliding scale, that we would work with me in the $60-$70 an hour range, if he thought that he wanted to work with me. (As if, were I to pay the full fee, he would work with me even if he didn't want to. This really inspires confidence. And, another thing: can you imagine a dentist telling you that he would give you 25% off a crown, if he decided that he wanted to work with you? He’d probably give you the 25% off because he needed the business or he didn’t need the business and he was just being a good guy or guyette, being that dental pain and discomfort really, really sucks.)

OK. Psychotherapists need to make money like just about everybody else in the American, European, Asian, and sub continental Indian parts of the human race. (I have no idea how the others get over.) Thus, they charge a fee for services rendered. Fair enough. Nonetheless, because I am short on scratch, I found the whole experience to feel degrading. It felt as if I was taking a handout, which is not my style and echoes back to some bad experiences that I had in childhood when the big discussion at the dinner table was where the next meal would come from and where we all would be living should we get kicked out of where we were.

Then I find that I get twenty six psychotherapeutic visits a year as part of my HMO health plan. The most excellent HR person at work sends me the list of psychotherapists that the plan supports. I call a few up. They are not taking any more patients. Also, I notice that in the list, these psychotherapists are listed under, Medication and Psychiatrists. Can you say, Xanax, anybody?

(Wouldn’t it be a weird thing if the dynamics of modern society was such that just about everybody existed in a state of anxiety at such a scale that the only real solution was to medicate the population en masse with psychotropic drugs? .......say, isn’t that the theme of a book by Aldous Huxley?)

So here is what I discovered while giving careful, introspective, logical, albeit irrational consideration to my mental distresses: I need more money! My adult and almost adult teenage daughters live in the Midwest as does my granddaughter, ex-wife and assortment of friends that I picked up during my sojourn there. Because I am “just getting over” on my present income, getting up the cash and time to see them is hard. I miss them.... a lot. Thus I am sad and in mental distress over it.

Here is the psychodramatic vignette (recursion loop) for all of you mental health professionals:

1. Patient does not have enough money.
2. Patient gets anxious.
3. Patient seeks psychotherapeutic help in order to alleviate feelings of anxiety.
4. Psychotherapist requires money.
5. Go back to Step 1.

Boy, and I thought being addicted to cocaine was an eternal Catch 22.

So, I guess I'll break the recursion of this weird, psycho-social dynamic and figure out a way to get more money. Then I will visit the kids, granddaughter, ex-wife, friends held hostage in the Midwest and get on with the important things in my life, like going to the beach and figuring out women.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Q: What happens when a culture runs out of heroes?

A: It turns to its criminals for guidance and inspiration.

Hunter Thompson blew his brains out today. Two Beatles are down, Frank Zappa and Mr. Rogers are dead and now Hunter is gone. I am running out of heroes.

Yeah, you could consider Thompson dangerous, maybe criminally so. But, his writing was exquisite and his thinking was, in a peculiar way, sound.

I owe a lot of my writing style to his example. In fact, the only way that I know Hunter S. Thompson is through his writing-- never met the man or corresponded with him. For all I know he might be some weird, early experiment in artificial intelligence, some rickety old mainframe computer somewhere, programmed by a Berkeley grad student in the late sixties to output data that reads like journalism on drugs.

Yet, maybe that's all any of us really are, our output.

But, I digress.

Thompson was the last on my very short list of heroes regardless of the fact that I would feel most uncomfortable were either of my daughters to get in a car with him. Yet, I am grateful that I had a list of heroes and that he was on it. His death leaves a hole. What personality do I turn to now for guidance and inspiration? That which popular culture celebrates is mostly mundane, mostly unthoughtful, mostly cruel and mostly boring. Gotti is dead; Kobe is a shoe salesman; Shaq has no idea that the Parthenon is not a club, and the warrior class is starting to lack honor and soon to lack DNA. It's as if Superman has sold his cape and licensed the "S".

Our heroes are no longer Men and Women of Steel, refusing to needlessly kill even a harmless ant. They are kids and corporations. The Herculean choreography required in the NBA to get the ball up court in order to score was part of a grander dance, one that required years to learn. Now it terminates in the adolescent impatience of the dunk. The naughty freedom of illicit drugs induced the illusionary, maybe real experience of spiritual introspection and the perverse, vein swollen craving for an undefined, unattainable more. Now our Stuff is FDA approved, held in the grips of the pharmaceutical titans, alleviating depression and facilitating follicle restoration. We've removed the dots and have substituted nothing else to connect. Take away the promise of Nirvana or the inevitability of Lower East Side shooting galleries, then where do you go? Disneyland?

Dear deceased Doctor, such are the times that you have left behind, a little safer and a little more susceptible to sanguine deception now that you are gone. I will miss you. I will mourn you. Your words changed my life. I wish for you what I wish for myself. May our weird and sometimes tortured souls rest in eternal peace, with or without the bats.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Q: What is an effective, just political action?

A: Picking up the garbage.

I am beginning to get some new insight into an approach to politics that might be useful. I wonder if the notion of voting or expressing one preference for "who's gonna run the show" is of any real use. I think that universal civil service is the real answer. To my limited understanding of ancient Greece, all citizens (the non-slave, white guys with property) were required to participate in the administration of government, no matter how much of an inconvenience it was. I like the idea of the effective administration of democracy meaning that at some point all of us have to get in the garbage truck for a while and drive it around to pick up the refuse. If our civic leaders did more of this and less thinking up ways to bomb shit, the world would be a better place.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Q: What's easier to find, a good therapist or a good dentist?

A: A good dentist. It’s easier to read an X-ray than a mind.

Well it’s that time in my life again; I need to get some therapy, counseling, paid listening, what have you, in order to get some useful insights about my “self” so that I am not so plagued by the day to day bad feelings I experience. I think that these feelings have something to do with my divorce from a marriage of 27 years. (two years ago, if you’re counting.)

Each day I have this heavy feeling on my chest and discomfort in by stomach. Then the voices of self-torment start rearing their ugly little head and yell all over my psyche. The noise is so loud that it makes the uneasiness on my chest and in my stomach not feel so bad; sort of like putting a nail through your eyeball in order to alleviate the pain of an abscessed tooth.

I am relatively new to LA, having only been here for a little under two years. I know enough people that I can get a referral to a dentist. And I have the health insurance to cover it, 80% of most work done. But, a therapist? That’s another story.

I really am at a loss about how to find a good one, one that will not play out his deal on my life. (I don’t do woman therapists. I don’t think women therapists really understand the salmon-like nature of guys when it comes to sex: we have to swim upstream and spawn, regardless of the fact that we will turn ugly and die upon achieving our goal. And being a guy, sex permeates everything I do, even down to taking in my dry cleaning and getting the oil in my car engine changed.)

I figured that I would approach a coworker and say, “Uh, I have these ongoing emotions of shame, guilt and self-torment after leaving a marriage of 27 years and I really don’t like the way it feels any more. Say, do you happen to know of an affordable, competent therapist that can help me through this?”

What the hell, I figured. If you can't talk to those with whom you work, who can you talk to? I gave it a shot. The guy I asked told me that he didn’t trust therapists period, that they just get into the business to fix themselves by focusing on fixing other people. He has a point. Nobody that I know has ever accused a dentist of being in the trade in order to fix his or her own teeth. Besides most dentists that I know are upfront and honest as to why they do what they do: money. Of course, therapists like the green stuff and BMWs too, even more so maybe. I mean, a dentist has to pay for that big expensive, multi-position chair, x-ray machines, drills, new fangled bonding equipment, computers with accounting and scheduling software and cute dental hygenists. What does a therapist need, an appointment book, a chair, a sofa, and if he our she from the old school, a reclining couch? Talk about a trade with low overhead.

I continued in my search.

I called the Hollywood Mental Health Clinic, near where I work here at the LA Weekly. The receptionist, a male thank God, told me that I could have an intern on sliding scale or I could get a licensed one for real money. Of course I said that I’d pass on the intern and took some names of the money guys. But, now it occurs to me that the are more than a few people out there that will be be short on money, have no insurance and will want to see somebody, anybody or else. And that somebody will be an intern. The last time I checked, interns sit unsupervised in the room with the client (patient?), “trying to be helpful and therapeutic”. Tell me please, would you let a dental student do a root canal on you without having a experienced, licensed, hopefully competent dentist no more than ten feet away? I think not.

So, I hit the online yellow pages. I did get two fast responses from two letters sent. (Never let a sales opportunity pass I guess.) One was nice enough and provided some genuinely helpful information. The other offered to “sculpt the therapy to my needs” at $150 an hour. Hell I figured, at that sort of money I could pass on three visits, save the cash, take a trip to Paris and sculpt my way through an afternoon of coffee and croissants before going to the Louvre while leaving my feelings of shame, guilt and self-torment back in LA where they belong.

Or I could just throw in the towel, watch a whole lot of TV, get myself pumped up on pharmaceutical commercials, keep a careful list and then go see my friendly HMO sanctioned, $10 co-pay physician. I am sure that he would be happy to prescribe just about everything that the TV told me to take in order to feel healthier, happier and harder.

And this is with a health care system in which 40 million people aren’t even insured for the privilege of such misgivings and indecision. Such is the state of (mental) health care in America, I guess. Anyway, when it comes to playing the odds, I’ll go with the DDS any day of the week. In terms of incompetence, both will take my money and maybe overcharge me. A bad dentist will leave my mouth in shambles. A bad therapist will ….well, a mind is a terrible thing to waste.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Q: Is Howard Dean a maniac?

A: No, he is chairman of the Democratic National Committee

OK, I’ll admit it, if push comes to shove and the lives of my daughters were at stake, were you to ask me to which side of The Party I would cast my lot, I would and will say, the Democratic side. I have never, ever come close once to even considering pulling the lever for anything Republican, although I did work as a youth volunteer for John Lindsay in 1965. Lindsay was really a closet Democrat. He came out in 1971.

Believe me I am under no illusion that the people in power who are supposed to represent me or be representative of me, whether Democrat or Republican, are anything like me, no matter how much dope they smoked during their Wild College Years. But, when it comes to being a political party that supposes as its power base working class non-professional people with varying hues of dark skin, gays, literature professors, improvisational musicians, working women, Cook County municipal workers, Jews from Miami to the Five Towns, bankable Hollywood stars (except Charlton Heston, née John Charles Carter) as well as Tip O’Neill’s offspring, the Republicans don’t even come close, no matter how much the Democratic side ponders the idea of limiting a woman’s right to choose. As much as I like the wit and political acumen of Abe Lincoln, the candor of Barry Goldwater in his later years and admire Fiorello La Guardia’s ability to read comics to children over the radio, my political affinities go to the likes of FDR, JFK, George McGovern, Adlai Stevenson, Barney Frank, Shirley Chisholm (may her soul rest in peace), Jesse Jackson and Jerry Brown. At least these guys understood the benefit of bringing comfort to the masses. I mean, you’d be loathe to find the likes of Joseph P. Kennedy III working the third shift as a sheet metal mechanic in Fall River, MA. But at least you know that when left to his own money and devices, he did not retire to play golf full time in Palm Springs as Gerald Ford did. At least he created Citizen’s Energy, which I think did a whole lot more for helping out old people than owning the Texas Rangers or privatizing Social Security. (Say, I thought that my IRA already was the government’s effort to privatize my retirement benefits. Why isn’t anybody squawking about that?) Anyway, if I had a choice between acting according to God’s voice in my head telling me to spread freedom everywhere around the world or acting out of a sense of noblesse oblige, I’ll take the responsibility of kings every time. Santa Claus is just all right with me.

But I ramble.

So Howard Dean is now chairman of the party my mother voted for in every election in her life time, and my father did except for taking a jaunt out over Reagan. Now he does not vote at all. In his words, “they’re all crooks!”

I hope that Howard Dean will be good for the Democratic Party. He seems like a thoughtful, reasonable man despite the fact that Big Media made a mockery of his behavior during the 2004 campaign by manipulating the true meaning of his discourse into some sound bite collage that made him come off like a drunken high school basketball coach. Yeah, my real preference for a DNC Chairman would be some guy or single mom who worked the line at GM for 20 years, went to school nights to get a law degree and than was mayor of Detroit for a while. But, if I can’t get a working stiff, I’ll take a doctor. I mean I think that you still have to read a book or two to become a doctor, despite the emergence of the Internet.

Yeah, Dean is rich while most of us are still trying to figure out how to get over. But, I hope that the guy has the smarts and vision to build local, state and federal governments that serve a vast majority of the citizens well, if for no other reason than to avoid violent civil chaos. I mean, if you abuse the masses long enough and hard enough, you end up with an angry mob hungry for satisfaction and a sense of wellbeing. From where I sit, history’s response to a disgruntled, alienated population made mindless and militant on the euphoric concoction of retribution and entitlement has been overt dictatorship. And that my blog reading friends really, really, really sucks.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Q: Is there anything that you like about the current Federal Government?

A: Yes, the Post Office.

37 cents to send a 1 ounce piece of paper anywhere within 3,537,441 square miles of territory, usually within three days. Not as cheap or as fast as email, but a great deal nontheless. If you are into sending postcards, it's even less-- 23 cents. And, in some Post Offices they are actually showing movies while you wait in line.

The stamps are a definite incentive, even FDR collected.

Too bad it took competition from FedEx and UPS for the USPS to get it right. You'd think that pride in governmental work would be enough.

Good news for the easily spooked, haven't heard of too many "postals" lately.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Q: What’s to become of Even Start?

A: There is a big difference between a smaller Federal Government and smaller government.

My friend and ex-wife, Dorothy wrote me the other day informing me that the budget proposed by President George W. Bush’s and The Group in Power will eliminate Even Start, a federally funded family literacy program, a branch of which she directed in Sioux City and later Des Moines, Iowa. Even Start is pretty cool. The clients are mostly low-income mothers and their children. The mother’s learn how to read and write English better, as well as pick up the knowledge and skills required for a GED. The children get fundamental pre-school services. Theoretically, and in most cases practically, the adult clients enter the work force as employable members of society while the preschool clients show up in elementary school with the cognitive tools to be in elementary school, thus increasing the probability of not ending up in prison or chronically unemployed later in life.

Even Start is a good deal and a cost effective one too, when weighed against the alternatives.

Yet, according to Dorothy, Even Start is going away, which is too bad. Where does President George W. Bush’s and The Group in Power expect that the people who need Even Start to go for such services? The answer that comes to mind is….. “faith based community services”, which is not a bad thing I guess. I mean, churches, benevolent societies and political organizations have been in the social services business for years, e.g., parochial schools, The Police Athletic League, The Black Panthers, The Salvation Army, The League of Women Voters, a turkey at Thanksgiving from a ward boss… the list goes on and on.

I guess the issue for me is one of power. To my thinking power is like energy, it does not go away; it simply gets transferred. Even Start has power. People need and want what the program has to offer and are willing to adjust their behavior, to act in concert (show up, give and receive instruction, do homework, etc…) in order to be part of the organization and to receive its benefits. (Arendt: "...groups come to power.")

Even Start may go away in the Fed, but it will show up elsewhere, in a church maybe. And as such, in the transfer of that funded service to a private provider, the power of the provider will be increased. No problem, I guess. But the last time I remember a religious group having a lot of governmental power, we got things like the Crusades (pick your side, pick your faith based organization), the Inquisition along with its sequels, and the Salem Witch Burnings.

OK, let's not get in a tizzy about faith based service providers; churches really are in the Do Good business. Let's put Even Start under the jurisdiction of private, community based service providers, which is pretty much the way things are now-- private, non-profit, contractors controlled by virtue of federal funding. But, let's take away the "federal control" and "non-profit" parts. Well, give private organizations political power and you get….. uh, governments.

Oh furgetaboutit, let's just do away with publicly supported social services completely and let everybody fend for themselves... hey wait a minute, isn't that the proposed revamping of Social Security?

OK, let's take a really big leap. If everything becomes private and there is no public, save maybe a military in which those that do the actual killing get a US Government paycheck and those who drive and feed those who will do the killing are private contractors, well then, who and what really is the government? (Real life note: When I worked for Gateway, when it was Gateway 2000, big, bad Gateway 2000, the company’s security department was bigger and better equipped than the entire police force of North Sioux City, SD, the town in which the company headquarters was located. In most respects Gateway caught its own criminals and just "handed them over".)

If I am sound confused and a bit disjointed, it’s because I am. I like the notions of the civic space, the civilian and civilization. I like the idea of civilization based on a literate culture. Even Napoleon understood the national value of a population educated in the fundamentals of language. And yet it seems as if the only thing that the current Fed wants to fund directly are those activities that for most part seem so be concerned with blowing up people and things.

That and doing God’s work.

I wish that we got on to the next step in being a civilized culture. However, there is a credible argument to be made that promoting civilization is not the role of government. Or maybe we have; maybe the Fed's foreign policy of promoting freedom in the Middle East is about promoting civilization. But no matter what, don’t think for a minute that government will ever get smaller. It will just get broader.

PS: Corporate governance is not a new notion. I guess in the future we'll all just be shareholders of something or another.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Q: Does The Camera scare you?

A: Only when I am going fast.

Just about every morning I take a beautiful commute through the hills between Westwood and Bel Air over Sunset Blvd into Hollywood to where I work slinging code here at the LA Weekly. No joke, it’s a spectacularly bucolic excursion, hard to equal anywhere else on the planet. It's a great drive. I breeze east, sunroof down, past UCLA on the right, Bel Air, home to The Reagans, Liz Taylor and Alfred Hitchcock on my left, up the hill, down the hill, past the slow moving truck full of Mexican gardeners in front of me, going head even with a pretentious BMW 750 at the LA Country Club…..and then just as I cross the border into Beverly Hills….. there it is on the corner of Whittier and Sunset: The Camera.

The Camera is everywhere these days. It's a wonderful piece of modern technology in the age of the Surveillance Society. It sits perched atop of traffic light like a mechanical bird watching its automotive prey below. Run a red light and it takes your picture with absolutely no need for a human operator of any kind, day or night. Once your photo is taken I guess your criminal image gets passed on to the powers that be at some law enforcement agency within the jurisdiction of your transgression. Then it’s only a matter of time until the citation shows up in your mailbox, to be paid no matter what.

I have yet to be nailed by The Camera. In fact, I am so scared of the thing that when I see a yellow light in the distance I actually slow down and prepare to stop, just as I was taught in Driver’s Ed long ago. It drives the cars behind me wild (no pun intended). I mean, nobody prepares to stop at a yellow light here in LA, except for me, that is.

I find it funny in a way. Orwell predicted the ubiquitous use of video cameras as a tool of the state. You know, Winston Smith hiding from Big Brother in the alcove of his little State owned hovel. I guess Orwell thought that the State would use ubiquitous surveillance to control the thoughts and deeds of the populace, which seems to be the mission of the FBI and CIA. But, what ol’ George didn’t quite get is that here, in terms of the cop on the corner, we really don’t care what you think or if you think. It seems that all this State really cares about is keeping its revenue up in all possible profit centers and keeping the really dangerous loonies such as the Aryan Brotherhood, three strikes and you’re out shoplifters and Michael Jackson off the street. Speeding may be bad for energy conservation, but it’s great for our municipal coffers. Cut down on the expense of having an actual person write tickets and you have some real profits going. And, if you can fudge some images of "your car" running a light, well ....with a judge synpathetic to the boys in blue, you can literally print money.

Speaking of printing money, given that we now have cheap digital imaging technology that can make any image look real, I wonder how long it will be before Hollywood grows tired of paying high-priced, high maintenance movie stars to make films and just opts to create the movie stars it needs artificially using a Macintosh (the computer of the really creative) . Think of the savings that Michael Eisner could pocket not having to put with the price and personality of a Marlon Brando, may his soul rest in peace. After all, it’s ALL just an image—the movie, the Oscars, Entertainment Tonight, NBC Nightly News, Playmate of the Month…

PS: No joke about the Aryan Brotherhood, these are really, really bad, evil guys. Check out this story in the LA Weekly. It's making me rethink the role and function of law enforcement and public protection in a civilized culture.

As for Michael Jackson? What can you say about a guy that turned himself into a new species?

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Q: What’s the meaning of molecular computing?

A: It may mean the end of the notion that in the ideal economy there is full employment.

Hewlett Packard announced yesterday that it had made a molecular scale device that is putting the company on the way to creating a new generation of computer chips. The idea of molecular computing has been tossed around for a while. Everybody from Ray Kurzweil to Michael Crichton has toyed with the idea. The need for a new type of computer processor has been evident for some time. Within the next few years, using current technology, we will reach the limit of the number of micoscopic transistors that can be packed into a computer chip. A processor chip based on molecular computing will overcome this limit, opening the door for better computers, doing more things, more powerfully and doing away with more jobs.

Let’s take a walk down Memory Lane:

The mainframe computer did away with the need to have all those clerks in all those rooms at the IRS, Social Security, Big Banks and Insurance Companies keeping hand written track of its financial records. Oh yeah, no more need for a human being to keep track of flight reservation records either.

The midrange computer did away with the need for small banks and mid-sized businesses to use humans as computational record keeprs. Extend tthe midrange computer terminal into an ATM and you get rid of a lot of bank tellers too.

The PC and microprocessor did away with a lot of assembly line workers, telephone operators, secretaries, (turned them into Administrative Assistants), bookkeepers, inventory managers, typesetters, over priced record producers and a whole lot more bank tellers; and now with automatic check-in at airline terminals say goodbye to ticket agents too.

So where did all these people go? Some of them went to the bathroom 8 hours a day, which is possible in the anonymous world of Big Corporate Business. Others had their job transformed-- more thinking and less grunt. Some retired. Many ended up in sales or on eBay, now that we are becoming a nation of salesmen and not manufacturers. Some became gamblers taking whatever they had in their 401K, signing up to eTrade at a $5 a trade and hoping for the best. And, some went on the dole... I mean unemployment.

I don’t have a problem with the dole. From my observation, it’s been a way of life in Europe for a while.

So here is what I think. I am not losing sleep about computer intelligence and brawn taking over all forms of labor that create economic value. I think that at some point it’s going to happen anyway, if it hasn’t happened yet. No biggie. If I did not have to labor for money, I would labor for love. Yet, sadly, it seems to me that most people in this culture have no idea what do with their time on the planet other than watch TV, hang out online, play video games, try to have sex with or without God's endorsement, order out, get drunk a few times a month, drive oversized automobiles and go to Las Vegas every once and a while to do more of the same. And, that's while being gainfully employed.

Jeepers, what would they do if having a job was not a necessity?

As Picard said from the benevolently militaristic world of Star Trek, the Next Generation:

"We used to be concerned with material gain, now what we want is to become better human beings."