Windows 10: A History of Windows and Review of Windows 10

Microsoft’s Windows 10 is happily a vast improvement over its Windows 8/8.1 versions.  I, foolishly, installed Windows 8.0 only my old desktop computer.  Suddenly gone were every single recognizable feather of Windows 7 and earlier versions.  Microsoft, for all its innovation and brainpower, seems to lack the ability to move smoothly between major designs in its Windows operating system.

Windows, however, was not always an operating system.  Windows was first released in 1985, version 1.0.  Few people ever saw it fortunately.  It was Microsoft’s clumsy attempt to mimic the Apple operating system of the day.  It was simply a software program that was engaged from the old MS DOS prompt, C:\.   You typed in “win” and it came up in all its glory.  Windows version 2.0, 3.0, and 4.0 were more of the same but with added functionality.  Windows 3.1.1 was Microsoft’s first venture into the idea of networked computers and it worked rather well.  That version was released in 1992.  But it still was not an operating system.

Then Windows 4.0, better known as Windows NT was released in July 1996.  The Windows operating system had finally arrived!  But there was one problem.  Windows NT did not play well with non-Microsoft software which was still in abundance in those days.  Microsoft Word, for example, had a formidable competitor in WordPerfect.  WordPerfect had been developed my Brigham Young University for use on the Data General mini-computer.  When the DOS world arrived it was quickly migrated.  In the early days of the PC most people preferred the more robust and well developed WordPerfect to the buggy MS Word.  But the writing was on the wall as the Microsoft operating system, MS-DOS dominated the PC market for all computers but Apple.  IBM tried to gain a foothold with its disastrous, though very forward thinking, OS/2 operating system.  There was also LINUX, a PC based version of the popular engineering operating system UNIX.  That was fine if you did not mind running through some 25 floppy disks just to load the system and dedicate hours of a single day to complete the task.  But by the mid-1990s all PCs were manufactured using Microsoft Windows.   Other software companies followed this by making their products Microsoft compatible, first to the MS-DOS operating system and then to Windows.

In 1995 Microsoft released Windows 95 and then in 1998 released Windows 98 each of which was a more user friendly version of Windows NT.  Windows NT did not go anywhere, that is, it was still being produced, but it had a number of characteristics which were baffling to the average user.  Windows 95 and 98 proved to be a huge winner.  They were stable, easy to use, and well-integrated with the Microsoft Internet Explorer which was also very user friendly.  In 1998 the concept of the Internet as a tool for all people was still new, even though it had existed since 1983.  The Internet was almost entirely the bastion of the government, large educational institutions and the business world.  But with Internet Explorer, and other Internet search engines, the general public quickly became aware of its existence.

Then came the Microsoft disasters, Windows ME and Windows 2000.  Widows ME, which stood for Millennium Edition, was an unmitigated disaster.  I had excitedly loaded it onto my computer only to find in short order that the ME operating system had huge problems with memory allocation.  Old software from other companies either worked poorly or not at all on ME.  Realizing it had released a complete lemon, Microsoft quickly brought order back to the universe with its 2001 release of Windows XP.  Smart consumers had stayed with Windows 98 and were reluctant to move to XP but as time passed most did.  Even though it is 14 years old, the XP operating system is still being used by millions of people.  Its stability and ease of use kept confidence very high in the product.

Next Microsoft came out with Windows Vista.  It announced its new and wonderful system on network television commercials.  We could expect a whole new world.  What happened, however, was something entirely different.  I loaded up Vista and suddenly felt like I had been thrown back to the hostile Windows ME.  There was nothing good about this product.  To be fair, it was faster than XP but it challenged you to use it.  The user interface was a lot of things but it was definitely not user friendly.  As complaints about that quickly piled up Microsoft, not as quickly as with ME, developed Windows 7 and order was brought back to the universe.

By 2012 the touch screen universe, driven by smart phone technology, was all the rage.  Microsoft introduced Windows 8 as its venture into that universe.  Trouble was, people with PCs and laptops, for the most part, were not in the least bit interested in touch screen technology adorning their non-touch screen computers.  The Windows 8 user interface challenged you to use it.  Of course, I loaded it onto my desktop and disappointment was almost immediate.  Even though I knew the answer, I looked to see if I could revert to the user friendly world of Windows 7.  Microsoft does not allow for that possibility and so I had two choices, tough it out with Windows 8 or buy a new computer.  Fortunately my desktop was old enough that opting for a new computer which came loaded with Windows 7 was a great option and I took it.  That computer has Windows 7 still on it.  That is an important distinction for this article because I am writing this on my laptop which has Windows 10 installed upon it.

My old laptop had the bad manners to decide to go into its death throes this past week.  Fortunately for me, this weekend, August 15-16, Massachusetts has a no sales tax weekend in force.  I took advantage of that and got myself a new laptop with Windows 10 loaded.

Windows 10 has the look, at least in part, of Windows 7.  It certainly does not present the challenges of usage that Windows 8 did.  Back when I had people working for me who were developing software I always made one pronouncement to them about its development.  I told them that software should always be “painfully obvious” in its usage.  That means that even a person who is challenged by computer technology can with minimal trouble navigate his way around the software.  The front page of the software should always have all its uses in plain view with tons of help a keystroke away.

This brings me to my assessment of Windows 10.  I give it a grade of B-.  That’s pretty high considering I would give the likes of Windows ME and Windows 8 an F.  I am sure Microsoft developed this version with its Version 7 in mind.  Windows comes, after you log in, to the desktop design of Windows 7.  In the lower left corner there is the friendly “command center,” I like to think of it.  You click there and up comes a menu of items to choose from including the most popular programs.  But missing from the list is one item I use a lot, the “control panel.”  For reasons I cannot grasp, Microsoft decided to replace, in part, the control panel with a “settings” menu.  This in itself is fine but it is only a subset of a complete control panel.  The control panel is where you add printers, remove software, set up home networks, etc.  But, the control panel does still exist!  You cannot place the “settings” on your desktop, where I like such things, but you can put the control panel there, which I have done.  Microsoft should have made provision for having that settings item on the desktop.

As I mentioned before, Microsoft bundles its Windows with Internet Explorer.  Windows 10, however, does not have Internet Explorer, at least as it used to exist.  In its place Microsoft has, in its inimitable wisdom, placed “Edge.”  This is “an” Internet search engine but a very unfriendly one.  As I said, software necessarily needs to be “painfully obvious” and Edge is anything but.  Even though I have only had it a short time, I have already quickly changed over to Google’s Chrome, something I had spurned doing prior to this.  What is wrong with Edge?  Where to start?  Well, when it comes up gone are all the menus which always existed on Internet Explorer.  These menus, which could be expanded or contracted as you wished, are not only not present but cannot be created on Edge.  I can best describe Edge as the Windows 8 of search engines.  Worse, the search engine portion of it is not particularly obvious.  The default search engine is Microsoft’s Bing, of course, which can be changed to google or other search engine, but it is not at all obvious how to do.

It is my recommendation that if you use Internet Explorer a lot and are now using Windows 7, do not switch to Windows 10.  Even if you are buying a new computer, many, if not most, can still be purchased with Windows 7 on them.  Windows 10 is a decent enough platform but it has user interface bugs which need to be ironed out.  I would suggest you stay clear of Windows 10 at least until the middle of 2016.


Can the Roman Catholic Church Be Dragged Out of the 12th Century?

I was brought up in the Roman Catholic Church.  It was a curious upbringing because my mother was the Catholic but my father was a Unitarian.  It was the odd confluence of an extremely conservative church, Catholic, with an extremely liberal church, Unitarian.  And in those days, the 1950s and 1960s, marriage of Catholics to non-Catholics was discouraged, to say the least.  My parents were married in 1946 in the Rectory of St. Michael’s Church in North Andover Massachusetts.  Church weddings of that sort were prohibited in those days.  My mother saw to it that I was in church every Sunday and in Sunday school immediately following.  As I got older I was required to attend religious classes once a week after school.  First communion and confirmation were a given and something we all actually looked forward to.

In the early 1960s Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI oversaw certain transformations in the Catholic Church.  Prior to then the Catholic mass was said entirely in Latin.  Latin was removed in favor of the language spoken locally.  The American Catholic Church embraced the idea of bringing folk music into its services.  It seemed the Catholic Church was embracing the idea of change and was becoming a friendlier and less feared church than it had been.  In the years since the church also embraced the idea of having deacons, lay people who passed out communion, and lay people who assisted in performing the mass.  Also, most nuns’ habits gave way to ordinary clothing.

Unfortunately, since the death of Pope Paul VI, the Roman Catholic Church seems to have reverted to its extremely conservative ways.  In doing so it has once again turned its back on the needs of Catholics word-wide.  The church seems to be in total denial of its responsibility to its membership.

The Archdiocese of Boston, one of the largest diocese by membership in the country, has such difficulty in attracting young men to its seminary that it usually graduates and ordains new priests in numbers less than 10.  I suspect the reason for this is simple, the church still requires a lifetime promise of celibacy by its priests.  This is contrary to every human predilection known.  And of courses, priests cannot marry.  Some years ago I had a good friend who was a priest who had just entered his 40s.  He could no longer deny his attraction to women and observe his vow of celibacy.  He was an excellent priest but found it necessary to leave the priesthood as he found the requirements imposed upon him to be untenable.  I think this is a very common occurance.

Along this same line, I had to travel to Oklahoma City for business about 15 years ago.  My stays out there became extended and encompassed weekends.  I visited one of the 3 Catholic Churches there where I found an aging priest.  He told me he could not retire because there was no one to replace him even though he was in his late 70s.  I also found out that there are many small cities in the plains states that have Catholic Churches but no priest assigned.  They are served by traveling priests.

The obvious solution to this problem seems simple enough, allow priests to marry.  But for reasons which defy logic, the very conservative College of Cardinals steadfastly refuses to even consider such a change. Here is their logic as presented on “Theologically, it may be pointed out that priests serve in the place of Christ and therefore, their ministry specially configures them to Christ. As is clear from Scripture, Christ was not married (except in a mystical sense, to the Church). By remaining celibate and devoting themselves to the service of the Church, priests more closely model, configure themselves to, and consecrate themselves to Christ.”  But this was a change the Roman Church made in 1139.  The Eastern Rite of the Catholic Church, Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, and others, never adopted this belief.

Pope Francis recently reminded, and reaffirmed, that divorced Catholics who had remarried and not gotten an annulment of their first marriage, are “living in sin” and therefore cannot receive communion!  I believe the Catholic Church is the only major church in the world which prohibits its member from remarrying without getting an annulment.  I once asked a priest about an annulment and he explained that in essence it is a declaration that an actual marriage never existed.  For me to have pursued, and received, such a declaration would have been essentially perpetrating a huge fraud.  I was married to that woman for 14 years and had 3 children by her.  Of course it was a marriage!  But the Catholic Church states it wants me to still attend mass but I just cannot take part in the most important part of the service.  This is like inviting me to a birthday party but telling me I cannot have any cake and ice cream.  The concept is absolutely absurd!

Next we have birth control and abortion.  I absolutely understand the church’s stand on abortion, it is entirely contrary to its most basic beliefs.  And while I absolute agree with the prohibition regardless of circumstance, I also believe it to be an entirely personal moral dilemma and that each woman needs to make a decision based on her on conscience and without the intrusion of outside influence.  It is a discussion between her and the God of her understanding.

But other forms of birth control are an entirely different matter.  The use of condoms and contraception are a modern day necessity.  For a married Catholic to follow the church’s teachings exactly, they would need to go contrary to the basic and loving desires, forgoing all sexual contact out of fear of pregnancy.  This is an absolutely absurd idea and prohibition.

Finally is the church’s stance towards gay people.  Their stance is easy to understand in the light of what the Bible says. I have two problems with that however.  First, all the various versions of the New Testament today are translations from ancient Greek.  But the problem is that Jesus Christ spoke in the Aramaic language, not Greek.  This means at the very least there was a translation made.  But was that translation from an oral tradition or the written word?  No one knows.  But we do know that Aramaic had about 5000 words total.  Now compare that with the over 1 million words in the English language today to get a feel for the problem.  Noted writer, Dr. Isaac Asimov, related how the word for young girl and virgin in Aramaic are the exact same word.  It is my belief that the first person relating the story of the birth of Jesus was referring to Mary as a young girl because we believe she was likely as young as 12 when she married the much older Joseph.  That she was a virgin was a more important concept to 10th century Rome than 1st Century Palestine, Turkey, and Greece.  The mysticism surrounding a virgin birth was more valuable to Dark Age church leaders than explaining a sexual congress between Mary and Joseph.  By the 12th century the Catholic Church was all about putting even the mention of sexuality into the closet.  What does all this have to do with being gay?  Simple, it is my belief that large portions of the New Testament are both incomplete and incorrect translations.  The Gnostic Gospels sheds some light on this with its Gospel of Mary, something the Roman Church has chosen to distance itself from.  But more to the point, it could mean the admonition of one man laying with another may have originally been a prohibition of adult men bedding boys, something which happened frequently in those days, particularly in traveling merchants.  That gay men existed at the time of Jesus is undeniable.  But so did pedophilia and I believe Jesus saw that as a much more serious problem than man’s inability to understand gay love.  One is an abuse of power, position, and children, while the other is a different sort of love.  I do not understand love between same sex individuals but I do accept it.  It just as real as any other sort of love and that is all I need to know.

To be fair, the Roman Catholic Church is not alone in favoring certain absolutes of human behavior.  Evangelical and other conservative Christian churches in the world espouse many of the same tenants.  But it is a requirement of any church to tend to the needs of its followers.  The Roman Catholic Church is absolutely failing in this respect and that is likely the primary reason it has seen church attendance plummet and parishes closes even though the number of people who identify themselves as Catholic rises.

The Roman Catholic desperately needs to make itself more attractive to all its members, not just those who adhere to its rigid tenants.  I suspect that if all those Catholics who regularly attend church today were to suddenly stop attending church because they violate one or more of these basic tenants, Catholic Churches worldwide would become empty.  The Catholic Church does not lack for theologians, both lay and ministerial, who desperately want the changes I have mentioned.  But as long as a very small and very conservative group of Cardinals are allowed to continue as they have, church attendance and membership will continue to fall.  But worse, the church will continue to ignore many of the most basic teachings of Jesus Christ.

Finding That Special Someone

You have to kiss a lot of frogs to find your prince. That sounds extremely trite and hackneyed but it is also true. It is always better to find Mr. Right, or Mrs. Right as the case may be, than Mr. Right Now. But there comes a time when we all want to stop dating and start a long term relationship. The problem seems to be with the first date and how your figure out if he, or she, is someone you want to be with. In doing so, you have taken on an almost impossible task. It is rare that you find a person who you have just met as being someone you are certain about, someone with whom you feel perfectly comfortable. In that light, give yourself three or four dates before you come to any conclusions about someone. That is assuming you do not find something in the person you have just met that you consider to be a deal breaker. A deal breaker for me, when I was dating, was smoking. I made it known up front that I could not be with some who smokes. Once or twice my date denied she smoked but then she never should have kissed me because non-smokers are very sensitive to the existence of nicotine.

That leads me to rule number one of dating, honesty. Many people today attempt to find partners via dating websites. That is all well and fine, I found my wife that way, but total honesty is a necessity. That means you do not put up a five year old picture because you favor how it makes you look. If, however, that is the only picture you have, be certain to mention that in your profile. Dishonesty of any sort should be, and usually is, a deal breaker. You have a right, and should insist upon that from the person you are interested in.

Once you decide you want to meet someone make that meeting at a location which does not serve alcohol. I like coffee shops. The reason is simple, you do not want your judgment and perception, or his, clouded by alcohol. You also do not want that person using alcohol as a crutch to better present himself. If you know you are shy and withdrawn, you need the other person to be accepting of that. This too is honesty. And you need to know how the other person acts fully sober. A shy person can still be an extremely attractive person.

Eye contact is not the sign of honesty, it only shows the person is capable of maintaining eye contact. Inveterate liars have no problem maintaining eye contact. But you can get to the truth of the other person by asking questions that are really important to you. Ask the other person questions like where they work and what their plans are for the future regarding their profession. Ask what they like to do in their free time, about their siblings and parents to see how they handle what should be important relationships. A bad relationship with a parent or sibling should not be a deal breaker. I like to say all families are crazy, it is just a matter of degree. But it will speak to how they handle difficult and important relationships.

If you love cats or dogs, you probably want to find out how your date feels about them. If you are a college grad and want the same in your date find that out. If you cherish your independence, make sure your date enjoys the same feeling. If your dating history suggests you have dated people who have eventually cheated on you, ask yourself what sort of person he generally was in the beginning and if you are seeing that in your new date.

Let date one be an interview only. You meet at the coffee shop, or where ever, and when you leave that location each of your goes your own way. Sex needs to be off the table.

For women, do not be afraid to tell the person you have met, after an hour or so, that you need to check in with a friend that you are safe and well. If he is offended by this, leave, he is obviously insecure and unconcerned with what is right for you. A keeper will intuitively understand and encourage your action.

If you got to the location of your date via public transportation, do not allow your date to take you home, regardless of how good you feel about him. If he becomes insistent, it is not wrong for you to take that as the sign of a controlling person, someone you probably do not want to be with. A good mate respects your wishes. Respect is absolutely necessary in a successful relationship. Demand respect.

Most importantly, be yourself. Do not try to be the party girl when you dream is to be a soccer mom. Talk about things you find fascinating and things you love to do. Accept that you are going to find things he likes or does that you do not like. Just consider it as a piece of the whole and how much it would matter in a long term relationship. For example, I love NFL football and make my wife an NFL widow. She neither likes nor understands football but we have more than enough things we do together, and things she does by herself, that more than compensate. For example, she enjoys her “girls’ night out.” I actually encourage it.

The first date ends when you want it to. If you do not want to see him again, say so. If he asks why mention the deal breaker and that as a deal breaker, it is not open to compromise. However, if you did not come across any deal breaker, I recommend you move on to date two. Keep date two limited to being taken out to dinner or something similar which requires conversation. This means going to see a movie or concert is inadvisable as such things do not promote an exchange of ideas. But unlike date one, date two can cover more important and intimate things. Thoughts about marriage should only come up as a natural extension of other discussions but not as a question in itself. The early dates should encompass only your mutual compatibility and nothing more.

Those first dates must be about your mutual compatibility. You need to see if he would make a good friend and if you say no to that, then say no to continuing on. With each succeeding date, you should feel increasingly comfortable in his presence. You should feel less and less guarded about your feelings and the things you share because you are increasingly confident that he will accept you as you are. You should be able to say something as simple as you are afraid of thunderstorms and have him offering you comfort and not laughing at such things. We all have fears and shortcomings. That special person will want to be at your side no matter what.

When you start this sort of dating, remember the goal, to find a life partner. To a reasonable extent, control the conversation. Know your boundaries and do not let him inside any boundary before you are ready. Have a firm grasp on your deal breakers and what is important to you, and make sure he meets such expectations. Compromise well within your comfort zone and if you are not comfortable with any comprise then don’t! Your future happiness depends upon your up-front willingness to stay within your principles.

The Sins of the NFL

The NFL, and Roger Goodell in particular, created a monster that has been wreaking havoc on the villagers ever since. And after millions of dollars spent and over 210 days since the crime of the century, in NFL terms, what do we really know now? There are only three reasonable conclusions a rational person can come to from everything that has been reported: one, 11 of 12 Patriots footballs were measured and found to be below the minimum league standard and, two, existing NFL procedures were either circumvented or broken by the New England Patriots organization and, three, the NFL was lacking in protocol to insure the integrity of game day balls.

A reasonable person and good leader would have, by January 31, 2015, fined the Patriots $275,000 or more for the ball violations and moved on. Unfortunately there were other players in this game who desired something more. We now know that those individuals were Ryan Grigson of the Indianapolis Colts and the Baltimore Ravens’ special teams coach. To be fair, it is likely other teams have complained about how the Patriots go about business over the years. But with the Colts playing the Patriots for the AFC championship the NFL felt the need to look into the Colts’ complaint. The league has both the right and responsibility to take such actions. But for reasons we will never know the league decided to play the game of “Gotcha!” That by itself was bad enough except a league official roamed the Patriots’ sideline at half-time and proclaimed, in particularly foul language, that the Patriots had been caught and were going down. His actions were reprehensible.

Roger Goodell had two choices that Monday morning, fine the Patriots for what had been found or launch an investigation. He decided it would be a lot more fun to open Pandora’s Box and see what flew out. But what Goodell failed to realize was that making visible the failures of the Patriots his own would necessarily come to light. But an extremely weak league leadership decided to make a murder mystery out of an illegal left turn violation.

For months now the focus has been on how the Patriots went about deflating footballs and how Tom Brady was involved. After he spent about $4 million, Ted Wells only conclusion, with regard to the Patriots, should have been that the Patriots organization acted contrary to NFL rules concerning the security and transportation of footballs. The actions of their ball boys show that to be true beyond any doubt, reasonable or otherwise.

But Ted Wells in all his wisdom declared, “But when you combine the break in protocol, the text messages, and the science, we felt comfortable reaching a judgment.” He is absolutely correct regarding the protocol, of dubious judgment regarding the texts, and entirely wrong regarding the science.

I accept the lapse in protocol as proven, it was. The text messages are a different thing however. Most damning was McNally calling himself “the deflator.” The Patriots foolishly tried to pass such a reference as the guy desiring to lose weight. Ridiculous! But the one question that needed to be asked of McNally, but never was, at least by Wells, was, “How long have you called yourself ‘the deflator?’” I suspect, and believe, that this moniker may well go back as far as 2007 when Brady and Manning got the league’s blessing to do things to the game balls so that the balls felt good to them. I suspect balls were tossed to Brady by the equipment manager and Brady would either accept or reject them because of how they felt in his grip. He likely complained about their inflation level and demanded they be deflated a little. But it is unlikely he either knew or considered league standards for inflation. This likely went on for years with McNally taking air out of balls on so many occasions over the years that he jokingly called himself “the deflator.” This in itself is damning to the Patriots because it shows a lack of control over their personnel. It is the job of equipment managers and those who work under them to thoroughly understand NFL regulations regarding any and all types of game day equipment for which they are responsible. The Patriots were obviously lax in this regard and absolutely deserved to be punished. The degree of punishment leveled in this particular situation is beyond any reasonable explanation to include, but not limited to, the integrity of the game.

As for the science, the only conclusion any reputable scientist can come to, given what was known, is that the 11 footballs were outside acceptable limits. How they got there is not provable. You cannot apply the gas law, or any other scientific measure, for one simple reason: there exists no verifiable starting point. A good and thorough scientific experiment requires repeatable and verifiable conditions. To do this the scientist would want all 24 game day balls. The first thing they do upon gaining possession of those balls is test their integrity, that is, they inspect the balls for flaws, leakage at the valve and all other points on the ball. That done they test to balls using very exacting conditions that mimic the game day. Of greatest interest to the scientist would have been the particular ball that lost the most pressure. That ball would be tested multiple times in an attempt to either show or disprove that the amount of pressure lost was natural or as the result of human intervention.

Any business that prides itself in its research abilities prides itself in being able to inform the customer of results which go contrary to their expectations. But we have no evidence that Exponent, the company Wells hired to do the scientific investigation, advised Wells of problems with the investigation either prior to or during the process. As someone who has done such investigations, I would have advised Wells that I would need the exact state of all 24 footballs prior the beginning of the game and that lacking such information any conclusion would be speculative at best. We do not know if Exponent ever said this to Wells but it is a reasonable question to ask.

The NFL, and Roger Goodell in particular, had one last chance to get in front of this whole debacle when the Wells Report was released. The report actually did a good job of showing the shortcomings of many individuals and organizations. It showed the Patriots organization did not follow NFL rules regarding the security of footballs. It showed that exact same thing for the referees present at the championship game. They too are fully responsible for ball security but not a single one of those officials took the Patriots to task for allowing McNally to even touch a single ball. It was not McNally’s job to carry footballs to the field of play and the officials should have known that. Furthermore, considering the gravity of the game, the head official should have assigned one of his team to accompany the footballs to the field. And lastly, the NFL was shown lacking in rules regarding care and security of the footballs. It acknowledged as much when it released its revised standards at the end of July 2015. All Goodell needed to do once the Wells Report was released was acknowledge that errors in judgment had been made at all levels. He still could have fined the Patriots, and should have, and ended this whole mess in a single act. It would not have been popular with a majority of the owners, his employer, but it would have been the right thing to do. But such a pronouncement would have shown he was truly concerned with the integrity of the NFL. A good leader recognizes that there are times he will have to stand against popular opinion in doing what is right.

Given all this, Tom Brady’s involvement in all this, even at the most egregious level, is rendered moot. Had those individuals and organizations involved in game day activities done their job, Brady could not possibly have been able to affect ball inflation. To the contrary, game officials would have quickly become aware of Brady’s involvement and been able to quickly and unequivocally correct and report his actions. That, of course, did not happen. The integrity of the game had been compromised for years because of the NFL’s own lacking. The NFL never cared enough to exhaustively define what game integrity involved and then put rules in effect which would guarantee it. Had such rules existed, this whole affair would have been reconciled prior to the AFC Championship game, Wells would never have been hired, and few people would even remember anything ever happened.

It is God’s Will! Really?

I really and truly hate the expression, “it was God’s will.” Really? How do you know? To be fair, the overwhelming majority of people living in the United States were brought up on one of three basic belief systems: Jewish, Christian, and Islam. Each of those general religions loves to use the expression in question. But my question to any of them is, “how do you know?” If you nail any of them down they will probably refer to some ancient religious text which supposedly gives weight to their contention.

But don’t each of these religions refer to God as a “father” meaning, of course, a family member.   And each contends that God is also the epitome of love, kindness and understanding. Great! Then how can you call it God’s will when an earthquake strikes a region and kills thousands of people? Are you telling me that either God wanted those people dead? As a father I believe it a part of my job to protect my children from any sort of harm. This actually makes God sound like some sort of sadistic being rather than the all loving purported.

Another of my favorites is when a person comes down with a deadly form of cancer and that somehow is God’s will. Again, really? God favors kind and loving people with deadly diseases as some sort of test of their love for Him? It makes it sound like He lacks love for the person involved. Which, as a side note, brings up another of my annoyances: unfairness. People love to say how unfair it is when someone is visited by some life altering, or worse, life ending disease while they are young. No! It is entirely fair! Diseases and disasters do not go around picking out individuals if affect. Fairness exists entirely in human interaction, that is, how one human treats another human. Diseases and disasters simply do not have the capacity to care.

If the basic claims about God of these three religions are to be believed then God could only want for our happiness, good health, and long lives. God does not punish nor reward any living being but saves such things for the afterlife. God does not take the side of one nation over another in a time of war, or for that matter, in any sort of human contest, conquest or endeavor. If God so favored any group of people does it not make sense that He would have protected people against the likes of Genghis Khan, Attila the Hun, Adolph Hitler or any of a long list of evil persons? But He did not which means His is an entirely hands off position. What happens to us here on earth is always the result of our own actions, or lack of action, or of natural phenomena. And that is my universe. If tomorrow I am told I have some sort of stage 4 incurable cancer I will not look upon it as God’s will or even bad luck. It will simple be the end result of a long string of natural events, and sometimes, many times, we humans are incapable of putting together all of those events or even explaining them. I accept my situation as it is. I promise myself to be as kind, courteous and thoughtful as possible. In the end, after all, is that not what each of us is evaluated on, by those who know us and God?

UFOs: Where Would They Come From and How Did They Get here; What Do They Want?

Since the late 1940s there has been almost an obsession with the existence of UFOs. For the purpose of this paper, I am going to assume they do exist. That done they must be explained as to where they came from and how they got here. Neither is at all easy.

I must establish certain basics for this conversation to continue. First, distance in the universe is measured in light years. A light year is not a measurement of time but of distance, 5,878,499,810,000 mile to be exact.  That is 5,878 billion miles.  To put that in some sort of context, Pluto is 3.67 billion miles from the Sun or 3.65 billion miles from Earth.  Regardless, it took the New Horizons space craft almost 10 years to travel that short distance, relative to the whole universe or even our own galaxy.  At the speed of light, that trip would have taken about 5 hours.  The closest star to us is Proxima Centauri at 4.24 light years.  The closest galaxy, Andromeda, is 2.537 million light years away.  The edge of the known universe is some 13.5 billion light years away.

Now, Einstein postulated, and physicists have since proven, at least to some degree, that the faster you need to go the more energy you need.  That part seems obvious however when you talk about going the speed of light they speculate you would need an infinite amount of energy, an impossibility.  All right, so let us say our visitors figured out how to travel half the speed of light, highly unlikely, but even so, if they were from Proxima Centauri, their journey here, one way, would take almost 9 years.  And if they could only manage one tenth the speed of light, the journey takes 42 years.  Light travels at 670.6 million miles an hour.  The New Horizons spacecraft traveled at 36,300 miles per hour.  And somehow we need to get to 67 million miles an hour to have any sort of reasonable chance of visiting our nearest neighbor.  We have not a clue how to do that but that does not mean distant civilizations have not resolved that problem.

In his general theory of relativity, Einstein defined space and time.  We hold fast to that principle today.  But physicists have noted that the space/time continuum can be bent as evidenced in the existence of black holes.  Our own Sun causes and bending of that as well, just not to the degree a black hole does.  From this, scientists speculate that through this bending process large distances in space can be conquered through this bending process.  For example, imagine a sheet of 8 ½ by 11 paper and that is space/time.  Take one edge and fold it towards the other.  Now if you are sitting on the one edge the trick becomes jumping to the other because of the bend.  If a very advanced civilization has resolved that problem then the crossing of great distances become a much easier thing.  Gene Roddenbury’s imaginative Star Trek may have inadvertently supplied us the answer is his use of “warp speed.”  That warping is of the space in front of the space craft and this is how physicists imagine it might be accomplished.

The how to get here resolved, more or less, we are left with the questions of who and where?  It is good to note that 100 years ago humans believed they were the only intelligent life forms in the universe.  This, of course, is a very arrogant belief.  Today’s astronomers are discovering planets outside our own solar system all the time.  They have discovered nearly 2000 planets, exoplanets they call them for their existence outside our solar system.  These planets have been attached to 1225 stars with a number of stars having multiple planets orbiting them.  As we continue to gaze skyward that number will and is climbing.  But even more importantly, these same brilliant scientists have calculated the possibility of the existence of intelligent life form existing anywhere in the universe.  They have decided that it is a certainty.  We are just now discovering life on other planets and moons in our own solar system which, by extension, leaves us with the almost absolute certainty of life existing in every galaxy in the universe.  And how many galaxies are there?  At latest count, over 100 billion!

I suspect that we have been visited by extraterrestrial life forms who find our planet a curiosity and nothing more.  The most likely scenario is that they, like us, are on scientific fact finding missions.  At some point they may want to contact us but thus far have not found any good reason.  We just are not that interesting.  Such scientists have likely encountered a thousand other civilizations at various points in their existence, and having studied them categorized us as being just like one or more of those thousands of other civilizations.  We simply do not warrant greater consideration.  But if they do decide to contact us, I suspect we will have to prove ourselves as being a lot more worthy than we are now.  We as a race love war and violence far too much for an extraterrestrial scientific expedition to take a chance on us as we now exist.

Where Has America Gone?

I went to graduate school to study U.S. History. I have always wondered how we, as a country, have gotten to where we are. I still wonder that but at least now I have a good working knowledge of the forces which brought us to this day. I have a deep appreciation of George Santayana’s words: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

I, like so many Americans today, look upon our Congress as the most dysfunctional body imaginable. The present Congress in its dysfunctionality is not, in my opinion the worst ever. That honor, if you will, belongs to the various Congresses which presided during our Civil War of 1861 to 1865. Both major parties where so horribly splintered it is amazing they ever agreed upon anything. It was only a few years earlier, 1856, when Rep. Preston Brooks of South Carolina attacked Sen. Charles Sumner of Massachusetts on the senate floor, literally with his cane, beating him so badly he required medical attention. Brooks was ostensibly defending the honor of Sen. Andrew Butler whom Sumner had earlier called an “imbecile.” For his actions Brooks was fined $300.

It is of note that members of Congress in the 19th century were seldom millionaires although most were from well-to-do families. They were elected because they espoused the desires of their constituency and, as in the case of Brooks, were willing to literally fight for those desires. Brooks was incensed over the personal verbal attack abolitionist Sumner made on Butler by saying, “Senator Butler has chosen a mistress. I mean the harlot, slavery.”  These men were obviously and heatedly devoted to those causes important to their state.  Sadly, I do not believe such can be said for any member of Congress today.

Every American has 3 representatives in Congress, two senators and a representative.  But if someone were to ask me what any of those three people has done for my state, Massachusetts, lately, I quite honestly could not say a thing.  I simply do not know even though I do my best to remain informed.

At its inception the United States could easily have broken apart into 13 separate countries.  After all, each state had long before adopted its own constitution, set up its own form of democratic elections, and put together a fully and independently functional state government.  But by 1783 the colonies had come to realize the value of coalescing into a single and strong central government.  Still, they were bitterly divided upon what that government would look like and how each state could maintain a reasonable level of autonomy within the structure of a federal government.  To that end they decided on an election process which provided for the possibility of a complete turnover of the federal government at 6 year intervals.

That process was designed prior to political action committees, huge and rich corporations, and even, yes, political parties.  Thomas Jefferson believed that their need only be a single party made up of the “wise and well-born.”  But Jefferson actually oversaw that exact change when he departed from the Federalist party line, with which he greatly disagreed, and stated the Democratic Republicans.  He realized that Virginia’s needs were frequently at odds with those of Massachusetts or New York.  The original fight over state autonomy versus federal regulation continued until 1868 and the adoption of the 14th Amendment which, in part, bars states from enacting laws contrary to federal law.  At that time states fought jealously to preserve the general good and well-being of the residents of their state.  They did this through those elected to Congress.

At the beginning of the 20th Century politicians who were called “Populists” saw well-moneyed interests exerting control of the US Government to the detriment of the individual citizen.  Industrialists like Vanderbilt had lobbied and secured eminent domain so they could gain control of otherwise privately owned property.  Rockefeller who was able to gain monopolistic control of the fledgling oil industry, Carnegie the same in the steel industry and other “tycoons” of the day.  Congress enacted anti-trust laws, monopoly laws and in 1934 the Securities and Exchange Commission.  It took well over 30 years but Congress properly recognized that corporate America had systematically diluted the power of the individual American for its own use.

From 1900 until 1980 Congress and the President did an excellent job of insuring that the rights of the individual American were not trampled on by a few powerful interests.  But when Ronald Reagan became President the executive and legislative elements of our government began undoing all the work of the previous 80 years.  Reagan used sleight of hand by breaking up the communications monopoly AT&T had created while his real agenda was something entirely different.  Reagan started the charge against the average working man when he successfully oversaw busting the air traffic controllers union.  It was an entirely unnecessary action as the power of the president has always allowed for his ending a strike when he believed the national interest and the national defense were at issue.  Previous presidents had used this power to end lengthy coal miners’ strikes for example.  But none ever considered breaking up a union as this would have been viewed as un-American.  He effectively declared open season on America’s unions even though the power of all unions was lessening and the frequency of strikes decreasing.

He then took aim at the federal regulatory process, in particular financial interests.  He declared that such institutions were too heavily regulated and unnecessarily regulated, that they were self-regulating by their very nature and in their own interest.  This gives rise to the question of why the stock market crash on 1987 happened.  Is it possible that the sudden deregulation had gone contrary to the public good?  Congress ostensibly righted that ship by putting in place laws which would limit or stop stock trading should the market give signs of being in a free-fall.  But the deregulation continued.

Since 1980 control of the Congress has switched between the Republicans and Democrats many times.  But they have increasingly shown an inability to come to a consensus of compelling domestic and foreign issues, not the least of which is the regulation of the giant conglomerates existing in the United States today.  While America’s infrastructure deteriorates at an alarming speed, Congress is having a food fight over taxes, entitlements, and defense.

No state and nor individual, conservative or liberal, is benefiting from the actions of today’s Congress.  If individual members of Congress were truly interested in the welfare of their constituents, they would be figuring out how many multiple trillions of dollars it will take to bring our infrastructure back to where it should be rather than allowing it to continue where it where it is.  Such an investment would of course greatly benefit corporate America but unfortunately they are totally devoted to their own selfish interests.  Every year corporate America spends literally billions of dollars lobbing Congress to do their bidding while trampling on the rights of private Americans.  For example, the energy industry has long touted how “clean” burning natural gas is while failing to reveal that in reality from its mining to its burning natural gas actually hurts the environment more than coal!  But who has more money to spend on lobbying, environmentalists or the energy industry?  The energy industry has done such a great job of championing their cause that they have been able to get local environmentalists to do their bidding, vis-à-vis closing coal burning electric generating plants.  It would be fine if they actually maintained the 3% pollution rate they claim rather than the 16% reality.

Starting around 2006 and continuing for the next 5 years the foreclosure rate in American sky-rocked mostly because of a mostly unregulated banking industry which allowed sub-prime loans to people who had little idea of the agreement they had entered into.  Worse, these very same large financial institutions were making bets on the success or failure of marginal investments.  It came to light that these institutions were cooking the books, so to speak, to justify what they did.  First came Enron, then Morgan Stanley, then Shearson, and so on.  A few failed but most were propped up thanks to the federal government, “too big to fail” was the war cry.  Why did it happen?  Deficient regulation and oversight.

Sadly, while all this was happening, Congress was kowtowing to the moneyed interests which got them elected while to some extent, if not completely, ignoring the welfare of the individual American.  Democrats and Republicans had obfuscated their duty to the individual American rather than anger the PACs which got them elected.

At this point I should come up with a solution.  Sadly, I do not have one short of saying America needs to toss out everyone who now populate Congress and put in new people.  That is not going to happen but something akin to it needs to happen.  Today’s members seem to feed on being antagonism and lack either the will or ability to come to any sort of an understanding with their adversary, they seem to believe that maintaining an adversarial relationship is the recipe for political success.  They use that very negative adversarial and contentious mood to invigorate those who voted them into office.  They sell it as acting in their constituents’ best interest when nothing could be further from the truth.  Members of Congress keep their attention focused on the next election and how they will get re-elected while subordinating the needs of those they represent.  Congress has become adept at selling Americans a ticket to hell and having those same Americans out beating the bushes for directions.

I fear for the future of my children and grandchildren, it seems very bleak right now.  I fear the America my ancestors fought and died for has been purchased by corporate America and that future governance is being decided in America’s boardrooms rather than America’s living rooms.  America is in desperate need of a revolution, a revolution that will empower them and put them back in control of their future.