Thursday, May 25, 2006

Blogging, and Memories ...

I just realized that my first year anniversary of this blog is coming up! (On June 6, to be exact). Wow! It seems like just a couple of posts ago I mentioned that it had been 9 months since I had started "blogging".

Oh... that was just a couple of posts ago! Oops. ;-)

One of the interesting things about writing a blog for me has been that I end up having a written (and sometimes pictorial) registry of what has been going on in my life, as well as the kind of things that I have been thinking about. I looked back on some of my archived posts from last year and can't believe how many things had happened that I had essentially forgotten about. Over the last few months, there have been many blogworthy events and happenings which I'm sure will be lost forever, since I haven't been posting regularly (or rather -- hardly ever!). Ever since I started blogging, I have become more aware than ever of how many details of life we either leave buried in our subconscious mind, or just forget alltogether. Lately, I have become obsessed with the "preservation" of my memories. The threat of my entire history evaporating into the ether looms over me like the shadow of a waiting hunter. It's almost like paranoia ... except I'm sure that it's going to get me.

I looked through my image folders a few days ago, thinking about organizing them: I see that I've taken just over 6000 digital pictures in the last two years alone!

That's right. Six. Thousand.

That's an average of about 8 pictures per day! Who will ever look at all of these pictures? And that's not even counting the video I've taken! And my camera has been broken for the last couple of months!

But even with all of this visual information accumulating on my hard drive, it has become a constant source of low-level anxiety for me that I have no written information about the vast majority of the images registered. As I glanced through some of my picture galleries, I was dismayed: more stuff that will soon be forgotten. I already can't remember the context of a number of the pictures I have archived. What about all of the little moments ... happy and sad ... which we live every day, but have no chance whatsoever of long-term preservation?

And why am I so worried about losing them? Is it just human nature ? ... the age old fear of growing older, and eventually leaving the Earth without having "left my mark"? Or is this just a consequence of my mid-life crisis?

It may be a little of both; but there is certainly an aspect of "mid-life" to this crisis. I'm reaching that age where I can begin to imagine my kids moving on with their own lives; not only imagine it, but see it as inevitable. Many of the things I've experienced over the last few years, I know I will never have another chance to experience again. Watching the birth of my child. Cradling my own newborn in my arms. Holding his hand as he takes his first toddling steps. Listening as he struggles with his first words. And that's just the start ... there is so much ... so much of which I may have not recognized the appropriate value of the first time around, but will one day look back and lament with a profound sense of loss. Today I can still read a bedtime story to Kevin as he nestles beside me; but those days are numbered. The years pass so quickly. I need to film them more, and take more pictures.

(Also, I've reached the age where I must accept that many of the expectations and dreams that I had as a child will never come to pass: I will never be an astronaut; I will never be a millionaire before I'm 40 (I'm shooting for 50 now!). I will (probably) never invent the warp drive, time travel, or develop the true theory of Everything! but I digress: these things don't really have anything to do with memories!)

It's not at all farfetched to imagine that, in the not-so-distant future, it will be possible to carry around a miniature camera, embedded, perhaps, in a pendant hung about one's neck, that will quite literally record everything we see and hear, over our entire lifetime! Transmitting to an i-Pod like device hung on our belt or in a purse, our entire life story will be indelibly written to disk, kind of like a TiVo.

This will almost certainly be possible within our lifetime ... but will we do it? Imagine being able to fast forward through every dialog we have ever held, with anyone we have ever encountered! Relive every cute thing our children have ever done or said ... every milestone in their growth. Imagine being able to replay every date we have gone out on, every lecture we sat through in college, every television program we ever saw! What would the legal and ethical implications be? How about the cultural and social implications?

All that is necessary to make this possible is sufficient digital storage space. Over the first fifteen years since the hard drive was invented, the ratio of storage per dollar grew exponentially, doubling about every 18 months, obeying almost perfectly Moore's Law. That translates to about a 1000- fold increase. If this same rate of growth plays out over the next couple of decades, we will be seeing affordable 500 Terabyte disks -- enough space to store over 50 years of reasonably compressed audio and video data! The good news for those fearful of the "Big Brother" implications of this scenario is that, for the last two or three years, the price/Gigabyte growth rate has dropped off to well below the Moore's Law prediction. The bad news is that all of these "implications" are technically applicable already: tiny cameras are easily available, often embedded within cellphones, digital cameras and i-Pods carried around by millions of people. It is already possible to selectively record a large part of the most important or significant events of our lives.

As is typical of our species, we are not content to hoard this vast body of personal information for our own personal use. Some ancient instinct passed down by generations of forgotten ancestors translates to an uncontrollable urge to share our experience with others of our species: be it a new and better way to start a fire, sharpen a stick, kill a predator, grow food ... or share some tunes with your friends, show off your kids' funny antics, express your political views, or just get even with your ex-wife who slept with your best friend. We want to talk, whether we actually have anything to say or not.

All of this is to both explain and help understand the rapid growth of "blogging" and image sharing, such as Flickr, along with the various other internet modalities of communication. The most recent example, and case-in-point, being the explosion of internet based video self-publishing: YouTube and Google Video, are the prime examples of the moment. I personally think this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Once again, I digress: my point is that I am yet another victim of our species' genetic disposition to broadcast my meager thoughts out to anyone who deigns to listen to me.


So here is the problem: I'm too lazy to just write a journal or diary... which would technically be a better method of preserving one's memories, since you can go into more personal details in a journal. I think it's obvious that I don't have the self-discipline to do a journal -- writing for myself alone, with no expectations of someone else reading it. A blog, besides satisfying my ancient instincts to communicate, has the advantage of generating a certain pressure to post, since you know that other people might actually read what you write. But on the other hand, I also have this terrible thing about pressure: the best way for me to drain all pleasure from performing a certain task is to make it obligatory-- or even make it feel obligatory.

I've dealt with that problem from the beginning by creating no expectations to post daily. Nor do I set a specific day to post... blogging with minimal pressure, and no stress, when and if I feel like it. The thing is ... if for any reason, due to circumstances of daily life, I go too long without blogging ... it becomes very difficult to start up again. When I go more than one week without writing, my tendency will be to go longer yet. And it becomes progressively more and more difficult to write, which makes me procrastinate even further. It's quite a conundrum.

Thanks for enduring this nonsensical post. It's kind of like a "break-out" post ... I just wanted to write anything to get me back to blogging again. Maybe if I remove the pressure to make sense in my blog posts, I will be able to post more frequently! Of course, then no one will read it! Yet another dilemma!

Relay for Life

Ok, just so I can say this post wasn't complete nonsense, I will actually add something important.

My sister-in-law Kim (brother Steve's wife) has asked me to pass this along. I will pass it verbatim, in her own words, since she does a better job explaining it than I could:

"For three years now (this year being the third) we have been on a team for Relay For Life in support of our friend Ashley, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2004.

First, just in case you don’t know what Relay is, I’ll explain. Relay For Life is an overnight event that raises money for cancer research and awareness. It starts at 7pm with local cancer survivors taking a lap around the track to kick off the event. Then, the various teams that have signed up each put at least one person on the track and the walk begins. Each team should have at least one team member on the track at all times. Throughout the night there are games and fun things to do to keep everyone awake, and to raise more money for the team and the event. If you have between 8 and 15 members on your team you are in the “fundraising club” and you compete with the other teams for highest amount of money raised. Anyway, the idea is to raise money all year for your team to get the most money you can.

For the last two years, Lane and I have been on a team sponsored by our church (GracePoint) that I have been the captain for. This year, Lane has decided to captain his own team of Cub Scouts. I am helping (since they are all kids!) and the kids are ranked 5th in money raised so far, which beats my GracePoint team by far!"

The relay takes place June 16-17. Apparently my nephew Lane has already reached his $100.00 fundraising goal, but I'm sure the more he raises, the better! You can see his profile and donate here. You can find more about the GracePoint Team here.

Congratulations Lane, and Kim ... those of us too lazy to walk around in circles all night can at least fork out some cash for a good cause!