Being confused by the information age

We live in a time when we have access to more information, facts and ideas than any other society in the history of the world. With the advent of TV and radio era, coupled with the computer age, our minds are bombarded with information from the time we rise in the morning until we fall asleep. Many of our children are being raised by these media. I think the problem arises when we have no way to determine what information is sound and what is not. Just because we see something on the internet or watch it on TV does not make it true.  Many information outlets are taking advantage of this and broadcasting with no regard to the truth.  News should be provided to help us make up our minds on a particular subject, not insure the number of viewers in a 24 hour news cycle.

Currently we are in the midst of an epic political struggle. The outcome of this struggle will affect many of us for years to come;  therefore, it is essential that we make decisions based on solid truths and provable facts. I believe it is increasingly difficult to tell the difference between the two. Often I find myself asking, “Who is telling the truth?”  I do know a few thing that are factual:

1.  The wealth in this country is being consolidated

2.  The average real income of Americans is dropping

3.  Our children are NOT being educated

4.  All people need affordable health care

5.  Our young people too often die in useless wars

6.  We are in the midst of the largest extinction period in Earth’s history

7. The average temperature of the earth rose over one degree  the  last 100 years with most of that rise in the last 30 years

FACT: If we do not effect change in these areas, not much else will matter.  If you are too lazy to spend the time becoming an informed voter, stay home!  All too often we are told to get out and vote with no regard to whether we have any ideas of what we are voting for. Do your homework just like you tell your kids and elect the people you think will make this a saner world for decades to come.

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Who is in the headlight?

As you may know from wasting valuable time reading my blog, I am a part-time tour bus operator.  Being on the road this much has heightened my awareness to a growing problem during night driving, LIGHTS!  Specifically car head lights, truck lights, police lights, ambulance lights and strobe stop lights to name a few.  In the recent past head lights were checked during yearly inspection to ensure they were pointing in the right direction so as to not blind oncoming drivers.  Due to many factors, this is not done anymore.  Truck lights can be a problem because they are so much higher than a standard car.  At certain times of the day there are more trucks on Interstate 81 than cars which makes travel at night an exciting adventure into the world of seeing spots.  In addition, you have to occasionally deal with emergency vehicle lights.  We all know that it is essential for these vehicles to be seen in an emergency but there must be some kind of limit.  I have approached several police cars which have stopped a car along a vacant road at night and had to guess where the road was.  This can be a major problem with a 30,000 lb bus.  The new blue lights are so bright even if your eyes are adjusted, they can affect your ability to see the road ahead!  I have a suggestion for this problem.  It would be easy to add an electrical component to the police lights that would adjust the brightness to the light intensity of the area.  In this way, the lights would be quite visible and not a danger to other drivers.  Along this same line of thinking, one could place a circuit in front car lights that responded to oncoming lights and change the intensity of the lights to the situation.  Lately I have seen the use of strobe lights on the top of buses and in stop lights.  Hasn’t anybody seen the movie Andromeda Strain?  Strobe lights can cause seizures in normal people!   That is all I need, people having seizures driving through a stop light at 60 miles per hour.  Last on my list but not least, are the cars that now have the new high intensity lights.  These cars are becoming more numerous and in turn more of an irritant.  I know that law enforcement has more to do than humanly possible and headlights are way down on their priority list, but I wonder how many lives are lost each year due to this problem.  Now I feel better having gotten that off my chest…

Saying good morning to all their friends

 

Rick and Joyce wishing you a good day

 

Some of you may have noticed two people sitting on their porch in the wee hours of the morning at the top of Augusta waving and drinking coffee as passersby make their way to another glorious day of work. This is Rick and Joyce Sirianni’s way of reminding everyone that they are with them in spirit, if not in body as they begin a day of bringing knowledge and joy to the children of Hampshire county. They were both teachers, and for reasons not entirely understood, they decided to retire. If you know Rick and Joyce, you know they were some of the most dedicated and hard-working teachers in the county. So why retire? Maybe it was the stellar administrative staff who kept the school running like a well-oiled machine that helped them decide to retire or maybe it was the totally dedicated and disciplined students. Possibly it was the constant testing of students mandated by the state or the hours spent by students staring at a computer screen as they took tests to show what they have supposedly learned. Maybe the reason is that teachers no longer feel as if they are teachers (one who imparts knowledge) but simply facilitators (one who makes things easy). Regardless, the two of them are spreading their joy every morning to the lucky motorist speeding off to work on route 50, and for this we are all thankful.

The Heritage Rail Trail

Several weeks ago our buddies Dave and Rona from Keyser asked us if we would like to join them for a bike trip on the Heritage Rail Trail (HRT) from near Baltimore Md to York Pa. The entire trip encompasses 80 miles of riding. We checked our calendar and accepted the offer. As you may remember it has rained a good bit over the last couple of weeks so we were ready to bail out if the weather was unfavorable. We drove to Baltimore where Dave and Rona’s daughter lives in a lovely house with her husband Joe and son Nicholas. Joe was only there a while since he was busy organizing the Baltimore Beer Festival. This is a 10 day event with activities everyday in various parts of the city. He said so far it was a huge success and was very excited.

On Friday the sky opened and for two glorious days we biked from to Baltimore Md to York Pa and back. Here are some pictures and dialogue of our trip.

 

Some nice lady made the mistake of walking by and got stuck taking a picture

 

 

As you can see the trees are preparing for winter

 

 

A train station along the trail

 

 

One of the many murals we saw on the trip

 

 

A rejuvenated train station in Md.

 

 

Someone had far too much time

 

 

The insides of the metal horse

 

After settling into the motel I called our old friend Doug Wiley who use to live in Rio with his wife Jackie and kids and now lives in York.  Jackie was working but he volunteered to come pick the four of us up and take us someplace to eat. We had a good time talking about old times in Hampshire county. Doug was always a cool guy!

 

We found a neat place to have breakfast and met Ralph

 

 

Chowing down in the Central Market, in York, before our ride back to Baltimore

 

 

Sue making time with General La Fayette

 

 

The Golden Plough Tavern. Check this out. build a frame and then lay the bricks...

 

 

Charlie practicing his Zen Meditation in York

 

 

What a great idea, painting the ugly meters. What a great idea for Romney!

 

 

One of the fantastic murals in York, Pa

 

 

The Howard Tunnel on the trail

 

Local bike shop for giants

 

Believe it or not this is a Sears kit house

 

We stopped by Kelly and Joe’s house, changed clothes and began our three-hour trip home. actually, before heading home, we stopped by our friends Rick and Joyce in Augusta and had an excellent, free dinner and enjoyed some good company with our friends.

My bed felt very good after riding 80 miles!

Memory, over loading the hard drive

If you are among the older folk, like myself, you may fully understand the implications of this article. You are probably looking for your keys, wondering if you remembered to turn the stove burner off in the kitchen or various other mundane activities that occur during our everyday lives. The difference is we older folk actually care, whereas younger people don’t actually care if they burn the house down or lose the keys; they just get another car or call the house insurance company, but that is not the point of this article. The point of my article and my theory is; We old guys have a harder time remembering things. (What was I talking about? Oh Yeah, memory!) If you buy a computer and you use it for a long time, recording songs, letters, pictures, videos, all those stupid things your friends email you and everything else imaginable, it takes a little longer to access the information. Every time you access your hard drive, it has to wade through more and more information to find what you are looking for. We are talking about lots of information. Your brain records every image, smell, noise, idea, sunset, emotion that you encounter during your development in the womb til right now!  My quick study suggest that the human brain is capable of holding anywhere from one terabyte of information to thousands of terabytes of information depending on who you believe. Only in the last few years have we developed a device capable of storing that much data in an area as small as the human brain which has only about 1/2 cubic feet of matter or about 70 cubic inches. In that small space everything that you have done for your entire life is somehow stored between your ears. Now, when somebody walks up to me in WalMart and says, “Hey, Mr. Streisel, remember me?” My response is, “I remember your face.”  For some reason we remember faces relatively quickly. Even when they have gone through some major changes like hair loss, weight gain, too much sun or long straggly hair down in their face, my brain somehow finds a matching image stored somewhere, but the name may not pop into my head right away. Occasionally the name comes back after a little small talk and my brain has time to retrieve the information; and sometimes it may not come back for several days. I think what is happening is that the brain is continuing to try to match that face with a name. So several days later one may remember the name. Of course, it is now useless information because hopefully you are not still standing in the WalMart with the same person so it is quickly placed back in its secluded area of the brain to be lost again. The next time I see him I will have to feel as dumb as I felt the first time. But the essential is problem is that as we get older we think of ourselves as forgetful because we can not remember a name from 10 years before or the street system of some rarely visited town nearby. We immediately assume the worst because the medical community has conditioned us to use the A word instead of the D word. The A word is Alzheimer and the D word is dementia. When a doctor tells us that we have dementia, most people consider it the normal flow of life as our brain ages. If the diagnosis is Alzheimer’s, one’s whole world begins fall apart with the implications of this horrific disease. The A word also allows doctors to run more test, prescribe more drugs and generally take considerably more money which in turn makes the drug companies and hospitals very happy.

Let me summarize my theory. We live in the information age. Our brain, as we get older, fills up as we are bombarded with increasing information everyday and because there is so much information out there, our brain is unable to quickly access all the data stored. We watch countless hours of TV, read zillions of pages of information, meet many new people everyday and cram millions of bits of information into our tiny 1/2 cubic foot brain. I am not sure our brains are ready for this information age. Only a short time ago, maybe 50 years, the average person did not live the lifestyle we do today. Then our brains were exposed to so much less information than today. Decades ago, most may have only known a handful of people or traveled only a small distance from their home; when they did travel there was probably only one way to get where they were going, not a complex system of roads and highways. Because books were harder to come by, travel was limited and TV (and all the other video screens we use today) was not as accessible, their brain capacity was probably adequate for the needs of the times. Then came the age of information. Just think of the number of people you meet on a regular basis. Some meet hundreds or perhaps thousands of people a day. There are folks who travel to different city every day or even countries on a regular basis. The modern person has maps, TV, news sources, Google, e-mail, twitter and all the information pouring into that tiny 1/2 cubic foot of brain. This is the essence of the problem. Maybe our brain has not adapted to the information age. Our brain does not have the capacity to store that much information and then to have it easily accessible. Therefor, this problem is likely going to creep into younger and younger people as we become more information driven. In fact, I hear this all the time, ” I cannot remember things like I used to. I must be getting old!”  Hogwash!  Consider the amount the information that kids are exposed to today. Many of our young people are connected to the web 24/7 through their I-phones or laptops. It is hard to have a conversation with a young person who is tuned into an I-pod or responding to a test on their phone. My theory suggest that it may not take long for their brains to fill up and experience the woes of forgetting things at a far younger age than us older folks. As our society becomes increasingly entangled in data and more saturated with the deluge of information, it is going to be more difficult to securely store and access this information in the brain. Now consider the public school. No longer are the minds of our students fertile ground for the information we have deemed essential to their success. The modern teacher has to compete with the information age! When preschoolers enter the classroom for the first time, we have to assume they have watched thousands of hours of TV, played countless hours of mindless video games and may have never been read a book. Now that fertile planting ground of a child’s mind is tainted with several thousand murders witnessed on TV and his own personal killing done on a video game. not to mention, the many other negative ideas that are endlessly repeated on TV. There are a couple of things that could happen in our future. As Neanderthal began to use his brain more, children were being born with larger brains. This led to problems at birth. There are fossil records of Neanderthal women who died with babies lodged in their birth canal due to the size of the baby’s head. Through natural selection this limited the size of the baby’s brain at birth. Today we can navigate around this problem with modern birthing techniques so baby brains could begin to become larger over time.

In conclusion, I wanted to put some of you at ease and let you rejoice in my theory. Maybe Cosmic is right. Maybe you are not losing your mind.  Maybe our problems are a result of the modern information age. There is also the idea that we have learned to discriminate between useful information and useless information. I know I hardly ever remember things my wife says and I am pretty safe in saying this since she seldom reads my blogs. Maybe much of the information we receive is simply dumped or stored in areas of our brain that are not accessible. So that is my theory on memory…Sue. have you seen my car keys????

I'm talking to you!