I’ll take it anyway


One of the few good things about being an old codger is the sense of perspective. We may not have flying cars or moon colonies yet, but 2020 has a lot of features that I find more immediately useful than being able to zoom over the live oaks to the supermarket. (Grocery delivery, for one.)

90 percent of my favorite books are available as e-books and, for the first time since 1990, I can see pockets of empty space on the bookshelves!

I get to research a historical fantasy from my couch instead of trekking over to the rare books collection where I’m strip-searched and refused any writing implements other than one pencil… to read a modern facsimile edition of an Elizabethan fencing manual.

The kid in Brooklyn can call any time she wants to chat instead of waiting for messages urgent enough to justify three minutes at night time lower calling rates.

Instead of parsing mainstream media stories to figure out what they’re carefully not saying, I can check out a wide variety of alternative news sources and form my own opinions about the story behind the spin.

Looking farther afield… charities that distribute used clothing overseas now tell me that they don’t want any garments that aren’t in excellent condition. Being able to hold out for a new-looking shirt instead of being happy with a ripped and stained undershirt probably doesn’t seem like luxury to us in America, but it’s a vast improvement for much of Africa. The wealth created by the Industrial Revolution continues to spread.

Those millions of people who were supposed to starve to death during the overpopulation famines to follow 1970… didn’t. I’m sorry about the ones who did starve and are starving because of our inability to completely destroy all manifestations of socialism/communism/totalitarianism, but in celebration of the non-famines, we could do worse than erect a statue to Norman Borlaug.

And as for the personal robots… Pass on that one. I’m not letting Alexa or any of her friends into the house, thank you very much! And the First Reader gave me a nifty little phone case that supposedly blocks location tracking, so in the unlikely event I actually go anywhere, the Data Giants won’t have an automatic record of my movements. Some “progress” is to be celebrated, but some is to be thwarted.

(Header image: Interior of Stanford Torus. By Donald Davis – NASA Ames Research Center)


  1. But Norman is called to have said a non-PC thing a few decades ago, so he,s been canceled.
    Just kidding – 99.8 of college grade have never even heard of him. Had he been “Noma ” she’d be a national, scratch that, GLOBAL hero,.

  2. Had an emergency dentist visit the other day– the guy said I grind my teeth, and while he was getting his tools I ordered a dental guard, which was at my house the next day.

    I used my phone/world radio/camera/library/talking map/typewriter/mailbox to do this, of course, rather than calling the local pharma to see if they have any (yes, three times the price) or having one made at the dentist’s (a hundred times the price) when even the dentist is saying to try it with a cheap one first, to see if I can tolerate it.

    Oh, and the dentist used a plastic coating that is cured with high intensity sunshine; the x-rays were a flip of the switch, and it took the lady longer to walk across the room than for them to be “developed.” One looks odd? BZZZ! and it’s done again.

    And this afternoon I’m going to act out the main character of a TV show, where I choose a lot of the main story dialog, I designed the look of the character, I choose how he fights and so on, which has artwork that compares favorably to, oh, Disney’s Gargoyles when I was a kid.
    I’ll be playing this with friends all over the world, and our eldest son, and us just hanging out is the minor plotline.

    If we don’t feel like that, we can watch a wide selection of old or new TV shows, and it costs less than a single person going to the movies for each MONTH of this.

  3. 90 percent of my favorite books are available as e-books and, for the first time since 1990, I can see pockets of empty space on the bookshelves!

    How I envy you! I have so many physical volumes that…well, let’s put it this way: I own 23 large bookcases — each one 36 inches wide and 80 inches tall — and there’s no space on any of them. Not only that, but at least as many books as there are on the bookshelves are sealed up in large plastic boxes. And last year I gave away over 1500 books. Should Long Island ever collapse into a black hole, I’m sure I’ll be blamed.

    When I bought this dive in 1979, I thought it was large. If I’d known then what I know now!

    (PS: Don’t forget, Margaret: Linda Fox and I stand ready to put the mutual-typo-hunting service we discussed in the comments here into action. Send me an email at morelonhouse -at- optonline -dot- net when you have something you’d like scanned for glitches.)

    1. Our house is full of books, both personally owned and borrowed from the library, and we have significantly more in our personal storage unit (this does not count the book merchandise in the business storage unit).

      When I bought my current iPhone in 2016, I thought that a 16GB model would be more than enough for me. And then I started seriously reading on the Kindle app, and discovered free and 99 cent ebooks — and free and 99 cent boxed sets. Now I’m having to remove from device pretty much any ebook that I’m not actively reading, because between Kindle books, epub books on iBooks, and PDF books and documents on Adobe Acrobat Reader, I’m running out of space on my phone.

      When I make another stab at the rewrite on the novel set in the 1980’s, I’m going to have to consciously put myself back in the mindset of a time when phones were wired to the wall, answering machines were expensive enough that college kids didn’t have them, and getting a book that wasn’t in your local library meant lengthy waits for interlibrary loans. I lived through that period, but things have changed so much I have to consciously think about what it will mean for my characters.

      1. Heh, I still fondly remember the Atari I got in 1981, to the great envy of my fellow students who had to do with typewriters – electric ones if they were lucky. And the needle printer I couldn’t use past ten in the evening because of the noise. 😆

        I don’t want to fly to the moon, but I like traveling. Those travel/hotel sites like Booking.com, Trivago etc. have made it so much easier. Before, you had to get lists with hotels from travel agencies or the tourist office of a town (at least in Europe), with a stamped envelope enclosed when you wrote to them. And then pray the hotel you picked was decent.

      2. I’m remembering the Heathkit computer I started in 1979. By the time I filled it with 56KB ram, twin floppies, terminal and printer, I was down $3000. A couple later computers ended up costing about that much, each with vastly better specifications.

        [Time passes….]

        I’m typing this on a remanufactured Dell (circa 2012 for the motherboard and case) with 1TB drive, 16Gb RAM and 4 core CPU. The box cost $250 and they threw in a 20″ monitor. Its cousin in the shop (2014, this time 2TB drive) cost $210 without monitor.

        1. Pete, my first “real” computer was an IBM XT clone 640K, 10 megabyte HDD. I happened to run across the invoice cleaning out a closet. I noticed to my stupefaction that I had paid a $130 premium to trick it out and get a MOUSE. (The kind with balls.) I wonder if my daughter (30) and her generation even realize that mice used to be hung.

          1. Must. Laugh. Quietly. (It’s much too early to wake up $SPOUSE and the dogs.)

            I used to keep a Victor rat trap (not cocked; I’m not *that* crazy) on my desk for stray desk-rodents. Sometimes, I think my co-workers thought I was weird… No, just Odd.

          2. I can promise you that there are people not much older than her who remember mice with balls.

  4. Ahem….

    I wrote that little paean to the Internet and other modern luxuries almost a week ago, scheduled it for today… and our wifi promptly died. Didn’t get it back until this morning.

    And that’s why we are not efficiently getting rid of all the books, music and movies that we can, theoretically, stream now. I made it through the week on old paperback mysteries and my collection of operetta CD’s.

    1. That’s why you want local copies of all your word and music [sigh].

      ‘Course, the good thing about paper books is that you will still be able to read them when the power grid is gone and all the batteries are dust.

      1. Sadly, some of my favorite books are wartime editions from England; they are reverting to dust.

        1. And not just English editions, I have some of my uncle’s Burroughs from those days, and I would be afraid the pages would snap and crumble should I try to read one. Fortunately, I have multiple editions of those; so, I keep them only for sentimental reasons.

          1. Some of my books were never reprinted and do not exist online. There’s a series of mediocre spy stories I loved in my youth which I’m reading one last time and throwing away the crumbled book when finished.

    2. *cackles*

      True story:
      our internet went out. Height of harvest season, so we’re pretty sure it was a load issue, lot of high tech farmers.

      ….we popped in wifi dongles and ran our PCs off our cellphones, and had the kids using the tablet hotspot.

    3. I’m looking to thin out my fiction collection; about 20 years of SF Book Club editions and a bunch of other hardcovers. The used book store in town won’t even consider anything older than 2015 editions (even as donations). I suspect the county library system will pass. Hmm, might have to try the nursing home….

  5. Well, actually, on the personal robot front… There’s a convention called CES where Samsung is showing off a little robot that follows people around with a camera.

    I what to write a whine about all the cool weapons we don’t have yet, and how we aren’t going to best trying them out soon on WWII scales. But today is a headache day, and thinks to modern medicine I can still function enough to get other work done, work that is actually possibly important for me.

    Look at all the research we can get our hands on for writing squishy sci fi with.

    1. “There’s a convention called CES where Samsung is showing off a little robot that follows people around with a camera.”

      I see someone has marketed the answer to the #MeToo nonsense: robotic chaperones.

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