Saturday, December 24, 2011

To my online friends

If you've been following this blog, or following my posts on Facebook, you don't need another summary of the year.  You know it has been long, and busy, with some highs and some lows.  You know that I sometimes struggle to focus on the positives.    Most of the time I am successful.

Some of you have had more than your share of difficulties this year.   Several of you have lost a  beloved life partner, a parent or grandparent.  Some of you have children whose ideas of sharing the holidays is different from yours.  Some of you are hard hit by the state of the economy.  Some of you are away from home, from the familiar, from those you love.  It's a hard time of year to be alone.  An yes, it is all too possible to be alone in a crowd.

Some of you are celebrating -- new paths, new perspectives, new views, new relationships.

Some of you celebrate other winter holidays at this darkest time of the year.  Significantly, all those seasonal holidays speak of the contrast between the present darkness and the promise of light to come.  My personal choice is the Christian version of this darkness/light celebration, the season of Advent culimating in Christmas, the celebration of Christ's birth.   Intellectually, we know shepherds are not in the fields of the Middle East in December.  But the Advent Wreath, like the Menorah, begins with a single candle, only to glow with its brightest promise of hope and  light at the end of the season, in the very darkest days of winter.  The sun rising on the day of the Winter Solstice finds the keystone in circles of standing stones like Stonehenge or Calanish.   Light will follow, literally and figuratively.  Whatever our belief, the promise is  there. 

Keep your faith.
Look to the light.
Merry Christmas!
Don't forget to pray.......

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

It Came Upon a Midnight Clear

When the current version of the Episcopal hymnal was about to be published, our Bishop called all lay leaders to his annual Labor Day Weekend conference -- Friday dinner through Sunday lunch.  We moaned every year about giving up the entire holiday weekend, but always came away enriched with lessons that would stick in our minds and hearts.  That year the workshop leader was a member of the Commission which selected what would be included in and what would be omitted from the new hymnal. 

Dr. Mealy pointed out that most renditions of this particular hymn omit the 3rd verse -- and called it to our attention.  This is NOT a pretty little piece of musical fluff.   It is a dramatic challenge to our Christian faith, a call to action, a piece of protest music.  My politically liberal soul can still see this mild little man in that rural mountain chapel, reading these words in his powerful voice, then over the next hour leading us through the two hymn tunes and suggesting how each melody sets a different mood, carries the message in a different way.  "Use all the verses." he told us.  "Always."

Here are verses 3 and 4.   Read it as poetry.  Then sing it, aloud or in your mind.  What do you hear?

           Yet with the woes of sin and strife the world has suffered long,
           beneath the heavenly hymn have rolled two thousand years of wrong;
           and warring humankind hears not the tidings which they bring. 
          O hush the noise and cease your strife and hear the angels sing!

          For lo! the days are hastening on, by prophets seen of old,
          when with the ever-circling years shall come the time foretold
          when peace shall over all the earth its ancient splendors fling
          and all the world give back the song which now the angels sing.
                                                                    [Edmund Hamilton Sears (1810-1876)]

Hush the noise.  Cease the strife.  Hear the song of the angels.  Give back the song....

May your Christmas be blessed. 
* * * * *

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Back to Writing

No, my world is not falling apart, although for the past 2 weeks I haven't been very confident of that.

My mother caught a bug, then had the audacity to share it.  SHE went immediately onto an antibiotic and promptly recovered.  Not being 97 years old or sharing her risk factors, I didn't get the antibiotic.  Short version:  5 days into the second week of near-immobility, I picked up remaining antibiotics from my mom's prescription.  Life has improved dramatically.

Then there's the absent computer.  It didn't die, just went off to be copied.  Now it is back at home, along with a new sibling,  The sibling is going to make life lots harder for a while, but just may turn out to be a joy in the long run.  I've been considering a larger monitor (20" or greater) for several months.  Looked at the HP all-in-one units, but ended up with the iMac version.

To understand the magnitude of this decision, consider that I learned to use a computer some 36 years ago, in the days when the word processor of choice, developed at Stanford University, was called Wilbur.  Wilbur had a brother, Orville.  As in the WRITE brothers .....   Wilbur ran on a stand-alone device that sat behind my desk and adjacent to the IBM Selectric typewriter.  We sent off multiple reels of 1" magnetic tape at the end of each business day, all the way from California to Missouri or Oklahoma where they were stored for safe-keeping.   It was the industrial standard for secure backups.  Upstairs in our building they were still using data entry keypunch operations -- in a state-of-the-art scientific research facility. 

Four years later, with a different employer, with the encouragement of an in-house engineer, the two of us brought desktop computers to our remote worksite.  The PCs came along a couple of years later.  About that same time, we spent a few months with an Apple Macintosh resident in a spare bedroom at home.  But the Mac returned to its own home, and I have been a dedicated PC user ever since.  Even stood between the IT folk and the line supervisors at work, helping supervisors learn to use the computers they were REQUIRED to use in their revised job assignments, leaving the IT folk free to do more complex IT tasks.  I don't claim to be a techie, but am quite comfortable troubleshooting and maintaining at least my own PC software.

This iMac is as different animal altogether.  I love the 21.5" monitor.  I love the color quality and imaging I'm seeing, even in the first few hours of ownership. I am looking forward to mastering the stylus tablet that we purchased in lieu of the Mac touchpad.  The graphics stuff that comes with this unit is amazing.  But -- it took several hours  to discover the equivalent of "My Computer".  The mouse works differently.  What happened to all those "right click" tasks?  My friend who said, "You're going to miss the things you control yourself in Windows, but cannot control in the Apple world," was correct.  That may change ..... 

The ads tell you that it is simple to run Windows on a new Mac system.  What they don't tell you is that getting from here to there (adding a Windows component to your Mac system) is NOT supported by Apple.  If I can do it on Apple, I'm perfectly happy to; if I cannot, I'd appreciate some help with the set-up side of that transition.  Apple says, "It's not our product, we don't support it."  Microsoft says, "Switching to a competitor?  Not our problem."  So there's a learning curve here that is going to bring some frustration until I build the techie knowledge essential to  running my Windows-based genealogy software on my new, flashy iMac.  Cannot switch to a Mac-compatible product; there is just no equivalent in the genealogical community.  Even Family Tree Maker, which has a Mac version, lacks much of the advanced capability provided by The Master Genealogist. 

Remember that little graphic of the two buzzards on a tree limb, one saying to the other, "Patience my ..., I'm gonna' kill somebody!"?  Pray that I can get beyond that response to focus on finding answers!   Meanwhile, give thanks for new toys and new things to learn.

Don't forget to pray!