All I Know³
Information, transmission, modulation, and noise – 3rd Edition


(It’s been maybe 5 years this blog has been dormant. Dreaded FaceBook has taken some of the immediacy away from writing a blog. But I’ve decided, just now, to start anew. This time (maybe) documenting what’s on my mind. This could be interesting, at least to me.)

A few nights ago, I woke up, wide awake, at 4am, and couldn’t get back to sleep. Medications I am taking for an infection was probably the culprit. Doctor said it might mess up my sleep patterns. Luckily the infection and the sleep issues have gone away, except for one disturbing incident.

That night, for some reason still not clear to me, I couldn’t remember the name of those little birds with a long skinny beak and wings that flap so fast you can’t see them, giving them the ability to seemingly hover stationary in the air. Every time I tried to retrieve the name, I drew a blank. Uh oh. Could this be a sign? It kept me awake, trying all sorts of tricks short of getting up and Googling it. But nothing came to mind.

Now, when you’re my age, in that pre-baby-boomer generation that is hurtling into their mid 70s and early 80s, reminders  of Alzheimer’s, Dementia, strokes, and other failures of the mind are everywhere in the media and talked about with friends. Try to ignore it, but you can’t. Besides, after 7 decades, any symptom that hits you that you’ve never experienced before is something to worry about. Like age; I’ve never been this old before.

Well, it kept me up that night. Then I thought: this is silly. So I did get up, sat on the couch and read a math book–my usual recipe for falling asleep. But the book was too interesting, and it wasn’t til almost 6 that I went back to bed. Slept til 9. In the shower, I tried again to retrieve that missing word. Still nothing! Yikes. This is not some obscure thing. It’s that bird out there. We even have a feeder for it. But, I was not going to let me get anxious or worry about the state of my mind, and resolved to ignore it and go on with the day.

Later, at dinner, Victoria was looking out the kitchen window. “Have you seen any hummingbird’s lately? Maybe I need to refill the feeder.”

HUMMINGBIRD!  Of course!

But, then the secondary effect came full force. That can’t be the right word, my right brain immediately told myself. That’s not even a word. It was as if I was seeing the word for the very first time, like some sort of Secondary Effect. Luckily it lasted only a second and my left brain came to the rescue: Of course it’s the right word. And here it is in your memory store, a little messed up and torn, but I’ll just rewrite the mental image and it will be as good as new. No worries.

How strange. Everyone has these sorts of lapses, or so they tell me. Still, I try really hard to keep my brain exercised. I read a lot. And I’m still working in high tech as a freelancer, altho I’ve been careful not to get too deep into it, not being sure about the actual return on mental investment. Still, there are somethings I keep coming back to. I learned calculus and advanced calc 60 years ago. It’s still my favorite subject, and historically beautiful, altho I never needed it much beyond a casual acquaintance in my career as a computer programmer and tech writer. Still it’s that math book I keep going back to. And someday I promise I will understand Maxwell’s equations. But that’s another story.

Clearly, we are no longer who we once were. In my 20s, in the mid 1960s, I wore 28×30 jeans. Now it’s more like 34×30. I seem to have grown horizontally, but not vertically. We start noting the things we once did with ease that are no longer easy and now require some effort, or must be avoided. Last time at Mt Blanc and the Jungfrau, I could barely deal with the altitude. Same with Denver more recently. This was never an issue 40 years ago.

But, no worries.


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Richard Friedman lives in Oakland, CA, is a freelance tech writer/editor, web designer, photographer, is a Director of Other Minds, wrote his first computer program in 1962 for the IBM 650. It played dice. He is also a ham radio (AG6RF) operator, and he also takes a lot of photographs, composes music, and does a weekly radio program on KALW called Music From Other Minds.
He is not Kinky.

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RCHRD@SUN My blog about computers, computer history, programming, and work.

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Ben Katchor: Picture Stories

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What Is This?

I started All I Know in June 2004 using Pivot, and
All I Know² Second Edition, in September 2006 using Movable Type.
This is All I Know³ Third Edition, started in March 2008 using WordPress. Read more.

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Archives of all the entries in the First and Second Edition are located on the old archives page

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