If We’re Still Here…

…it means that the Mayans didn’t have it quite right!  That’s certainly okay with me as I’m sure it is with most of us.  However it doesn’t mean they were completely wrong either.  In fact, there is a surprising amount of verifiable data that provides more than enough reason for us to believe they knew something about Earth’s life-cycle that we perhaps aren’t aware of ourselves.  And out of all that data and supposition there’s one scientific discovery made just a few years ago that should make at least one of your eyebrows arch in Vulcan-like fascination.

It seems there was at or around the time of this great civilization’s demise, an almost unmanageable weather condition that struck their area of the world so very quickly and without any warning of consequence that it may at the very least be one of the major causes for their fall.  And it also seems just as likely to have been considered by their learned meteorologists to be of a cyclic nature, thus promoting their belief it would return to once again wipe out the current tenants of our world!  I’m talking about a major catastrophic event in which the super-cool air found miles above us would suddenly be enabled by some strange and never before seen geo-weather condition to fall or be sucked down to sea level, almost instantaneously freezing and killing every living thing it touches!  It definitely happened during their lifetime…proven by the finding of still instantly frozen specimens of plant life hiding within and beneath the frozen tundra of the area.  Any other means responsible for doing this would most certainly have been apparent within the cell structure of these same specimens because any other means would have suffered them to freeze at a much slower, more natural rate.  You can be sure that were this same kind and level of event were to take place anywhere in the world of today, it would immediately make the headlines and result in the death of all life it might touch!  Could such an event be cyclic in nature?  Will it happen again?  Should we care?  As I see it, such questions, like so many we have a tendency to ask, are useless unless or until we are faced with such a occurance!  Besides, I’m still trying to figure out not WHAT “Reality” is, but WHY it is!

Last month I mentioned that I was an avid computer game player.  I’ll never need or wish to deny that simple statement, but notice that I qualified my status as such by the type of gaming I do…that being the type that can only be played on a full-size computer…and one I’ll further note that is built to the custom, high-end specifications, the most advanced and graphically intensive games require these days.  This is not the computer your mother stored her recipes on, nor even the one your father might have employed to help fulfill his tax obligations!  Although their relative cost may be about the same, they are definitely not the same at all!  Of course there are indeed other, much cheaper console systems available from a number of companies that have been designed almost specifically for playing many of these same games, and directly on today’s variety of big-screen TV’s which can be a big plus to some.  But as any ‘real’ gamer can tell you, not even one of these many console machines can ever hope to outdo the gaming computer at what it is designed to do.  Frame-rates, graphic abilities, multi-tasking, and their initial cost are all  higher than anything a console can offer, and in response, the game designers themselves almost always go out of their way to make sure the games made for such high-end systems are more than able to provide and exceed in the proper use of this power!

I also own an Xbox 360 console.  One of the best in my opinion, and it also probably supports the greatest number of games for all ages that are and ever will be put out on the market, including a few good quality, adult-based games, that like the very popular Halo series cannot be played on any other system.  But that’s not why I have one!

Believe it or not, the gaming industry is now earning more money around the world than the previous champion of the entertainment industy…movies.  And now with the cheap proliferation of  large-screen TV’s, ( along with microwave popcorn and your favorite beer ), the movie industry is taking even more of a nose-dive than ever expected!  To be sure, those making movies out there needn’t worry about it much as it’s still big business and nets in the billions, but now with WI-FI and good broadband access in our homes, movies and other forms of visual entertainment has become easier and cheaper than ever before.  In fact, the selling of DVD’s and Blue-Ray discs may soon be at risk because of this new trend!  Why spend $15 to $25 for a new DVD when you can now purchase and/or rent a copy that can be streamed in real-time directly to your TV for less money…and if purchased, without even having to store it in your small apartment?  Right now there are at least a dozen companies out there that can be utilized via a network connection to your TV, game console, desktop computer, Kindle, Ipad, or even a cellular phone to purchase, rent, and most important, to watch nearly any TV show or movie ever made!  Newer systems of most types no longer require any special interface equipment at all, allowing you to connect via WI-FI, ( public or private ), or broadband directly anytime you want, and older systems can still connect to these services and more by simply buying an interface module or game console like Xbox and running your network through it and then to your system.  That’s what I use my Xbox for, and it is services like those Microsoft provides through its console I wanted to talk about this month!

I have broadband cable access in my apartment, and that’s how I’ve been accessing the internet and its many services since dial-up became obsolete many years ago.  At the time, and even now, such a connection provides me with a throughput of at least 24 Mb’s a second…more than fast enough for anything I have ever needed to do.  But until recently, it only provided that kind of access on my desktop computer.  I could still stream movies into my TV because that has always been the best way to get TV coverage in my area, but to do so I had to resort to “pay-for-view” subscriptions, and they are still the most expensive means for doing so where I live.  Of course I already had my big-screen TV, and it ran through a home theater system with great sound and HD so I was fairly happy with the way things were hooked up.  But then I got my Xbox 360…an expenditure I was happy to afford just so I could play Halo…an ability I haven’t cared about since I played through the first version of that popular series.  I’m deeply sorry Microsoft, but as great a game it was and still is, it simply doesn’t get me excited the way playing on my computer does.  And I’ve never been able to get used to the Xbox 360 controller either!

What to do with my console I asked myself.  Try and sell it?  Give it away to some kid?  Well I was indeed about to do just that when I happened across an article in a Tech magazine about what Microsoft and other console makers were trying to do now that their machines seemed to be everywhere.  One way or another, they’re all doing it, but it seems to me that Microsoft is doing it better than the rest, and at a reasonable price!

The Xbox 360 that I no longer use to play games on makes the perfect portal into all the many services offered via the internet.  I simply use my Xbox controller as a remote to turn it on/off and provide actions for the services as well.  I then go to my “Apps” page where I have downloaded and can click on any service I want.  There are quite a few free ones, such as a direct hub into Utube, GameSpot, and a TV enabled Internet browser, with even more from which you can purchase or rent TV shows, movies, and music.  And there are also special interest apps you can download for free and use the same way, such as ESPN network which allows you unprecedented access to all sports from football to darts!  It’s all well done and operatively consistent from service to service.  And one of the things I like best is that when you do pay to rent or purchase from any of these services, you are billed by Microsoft on your Microsoft Xbox account using a consistent billing and invoice system that you can look up on the network and receive e-mail copies of within just a couple of hours.

Having access to the tools and their services like this from a single point of sales, is user-friendly technology at its best, and it keeps getting better every day!  There’s just one problem, or perhaps I should call it a conditional situation, in regards to making use of all this great technology, and it’s not the fault of the services themselves or the technology that makes them possible.  It is unfortunately the fault of our own lack of awareness, our own laziness, and maybe our indifference and misuse of services indiscreetly and without realizing the great potential for harm that is possible in their use!

Looking at just one side or consideration we must endeavor to clearly think about before and/or when we make use of services like these, I can tell you that it is applicable to not just the free and open access to potentially harmful web sites, but also entails the same needs in protecting ourselves, and more so our loved ones, from the food we eat, the music we listen to, the movies we watch and the videos we rent.  I’m talking about our miss or non-use of parental controls that we are provided by technology to help us protect our children and even ourselves and others from web sites which in the name of entertainment make it far to easy for anyone to access things not within the allowable limitations of our own individual moral or ethical base!

No one could ever possibly call me a prudish man, and lest you forget, I am an old hippie who grew up under and still follows the moral considerations of my time that include free love, synchronistic awareness, the sharing of heart and soul as a lifestyle, and a great love for passive revolution.  So I’m not about to sit here at my keyboard and unleash on the unexpecting my own sexual morals by making a list of what is or is not an example of indecency.  Nothing a man or woman can do alone or in the company of others can be labeled as indecent, provided it is done with the sincere approval of all involved parties, and causes no harm to anyone! So if you feel the need to sit alone in your crib watching the most bizarre examples of sexual congress possible on that big-screen TV you kept hidden in your bedroom behind an equally sized, but really cheap imitation of a Leroy Neiman original while masturbating into a plastic representation of your neighbor’s cat, who am I to say that you need to get out more?  But if things like this really are your idea of a hot Friday night or you just like to watch X rated movies after the kids have been tucked away, you have a real, and very important responsibility to your children and their friends not to do absolutely nothing to prevent them from accessing the same site and its files when you are not physically there to provide that same protection.

Children are curious, and with sex being at the top of the ‘interest’ list when they are between the ages of 8 and 16, you cannot expect your promise to take away their bike if you ever catch them looking at your recreational videos to actually prevent them from doing exactly that!  It’s bad enough that we have less influence on their attitudes and behaviour than their first grade teacher and part-time prostitute who can’t be fired due to the teacher’s union intervention, but then you make it just as or even easier for them to learn about the seedier side of the sex business by forgetting or not caring to make use of the parental controls right under our index or button finger!  There are both good and bad ways to learn about such things, and we each have our own moral considerations and timeline for talking about or sharing on these kinds of topics and experiences.  At the very least we know the moment we first see our children at birth that we want it to be ourselves that is permitted this honor!  I have never lied to or otherwise hidden anything I ever did in my own lifetime from my children, and as a result I can honestly say that I or my ex have ever had to endure any of the problems associated with their growing years we hear and read so much about.  But neither of us ever just blurted out our own experiences wholesale or without first considering their ages and maturity at the time.  Believe me, there are appropriate answers to the questions and worries that children must deal with for every individual child at every age!  And once they’ve started school, the proper way to deal with such concerns is about the ONLY way left to us in the molding of their hungry, little minds!

Pornography, as the example among so many that I chose to consider here is not all bad.  Nor does it necessarily lead to bad things, moral decay, or negative influences, however it is also not the best example, thus not the best teacher, of true human sexuality.  To take us beyond the beastile nature of the fundamental requirements procreation demands, it must allow for mutual respect, selflessness, and the cooperative sensuality only the sentient seems to have been endowed with.

So never be afraid or embarrassed to talk about such things with your own children.  In most cases you’ll soon realize that they probably know a lot more about the subject than you do…or at least more than you expected!  And please DO take the time to learn how this new technology works, how it is so often abused or at least misused, and the power it provides you with to ensure their emotional and even physical health.  I’ve met far too many parents over the last ten years or so who preach the bible and good behaviour on Sunday, then sit in the same room with their 13-year-old as he or she watches movies and/or web sites promoting everything from bomb making to deviant sexual oddities that even I cannot keep my eyes open for!  They and the rest of the world will thank you for your efforts!