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The Place of the Pun

A pun is a play on words, a statement that turns spelling or phrases around in a humorous manner. I can paddle, canoe? (I can paddle, can you?) When avoiding chores around then house, mother is the necessity of invention (necessity is the mother of invention).

I had a teacher who hated puns and said they were the lowest form of writing. The TV show Get Smart, a comedy where Don Adams played an inept secret agent when spy movies were popular, was running at the time. Created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, each episode contained an onslaught of puns in a style Brooks used in his parody films such as Blazing Saddles and Space Balls.

My teacher despised the show and used it as an example of what should never be done. Her idea of good writing was Shakespeare.

I loved Get Smart and all the puns. I can still watch it today and laugh Thinking back, I don't believe that teacher actually understood Shakespeare's works because they're loaded with puns. However, the language and culture has changed so much over 500 years. Many people today don't recognize the humor.

This might sound like a meaningless exchange that's anything but funny. Yet, to audiences in the 16th century it brought uproarious laughter. They understood the joke. At that time, to face a man had two meanings, either to stand up to him or for a tailor to add decorations to a garment. Braved also had two meanings— to challenge someone to a dual or for a tailor to measure someone for garments.

This might sound like a meaningless exchange that's anything but funny. Yet, to audience in the 16th century it brought uproarious laughter. They understood the joke. At that time, to face a man had two meanings, either to stand up to him or for a tailor to add decorations to a garment. Braved also had two meanings— to challenge someone to a dual or for a tailor to measure someone for garments.

For puns to work, they must contain know cultural references. That modern audiences don't always get the puns in Shakespeare's plays doesn't mean people today are dumb. They just don't have the same connection to the older culture and language. Even for subcultures within any modern societies, the puns will differ and may not me understood by people in other groups.

It takes a lot of wit and intelligence to write puns. They make us pause, shake our heads, and if their really good, groan when people get them.

Mutual Respect in Business Pays Off

Many companies, large and small, still live with the 19th century notion that managers have to stand over employees to make certain they’re working. Yet, evidence shows when managers set clear goals and allow employees, who know the details of the work, the leeway to function in their most efficient ways, productivity and profits increase. In too many respects, western business culture still holds feudal attitudes of lords and peasants rather than as partners who are all required to achieve goals and all deserve equal respect.

2001: A Space Odyssey Turns 55

55 years ago, a movie transformed science fiction films, Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Written in collaboration with legendary science fiction author Arthur C. Clark, who has second billing for the screenplay and wrote the novelization, the movie is based on Clark’s short story “The Sentinel” in which an object is dug up on the moon and sends a signal to an unidentified alien world, leaving the main character to wonder who will receive the alarm that humans have left the Earth.

Other Sci-fi films have tackled serious questions such Forbidden Planet, with it’s exploration of the human mind and it’s powers, and The Day the Earth Stood Still, whose themes cover the human propensity for violence and war with a draconian solution.

2001 Delved into more than social warnings. It contemplated the existence, place and future of human beings. It also introduced HAL 9000, the artificial intelligent computer who speaks and acts as if human, and in the end succumbs to human foibles to tragic ends.

The meticulous detail Kubrick put into all his films produced ground breaking special effects that won an Oscar and continue to stand up to this day. There would have been no Star Wars, Silent Running or any other modern sci-fi movies without 2001. The measured pace of the spacecrafts contrast with whizzing space battles, yet create the reality of space travel as had never been seen before. Astronauts have said viewing 2001: A Space Odyssey is like being in space again.

I’ve viewed the film over two dozen times, first in Cinerama with its 180-degree screen that wraps around the audience and fills the peripheral vision with the illusion of three dimensions without glasses, then in standard theaters, drive-ins, scan-and-pan broadcast TV before wide screen, VHS, DVD and Blue-Ray, which I watched again this week.

It was one of the major influences on me as a youth and a reason I became a writer, a teller of stories that expand the imagination.

Protecting your data is protecting your writing career

There is no pain to match that of losing a manuscript or those perfect paragraphs you just finished. I started writing with pen and paper, then moved to a manual typewriter before I entered the holy land with an electric typewriter. Wow! I never worried about the typewriter breaking down because everything was on paper and I never lost a word.

Then, I began using a word processor. It certainly made edits easier, though I still write by hand occasionally and put it into the word processor. I couldn’t see a downside until the first time the computer crashed while I was working and several pages were lost to the ether. This was followed by an incident where I meant to delete a word and accidentally deleted an entire paragraph in the days before undo. It was an interesting sight, a man screaming, “No!” while physically pulling up on the delete key. One morning the hard disk failed to boot. fortunately, someone had hidden all the razor blades.

Today, we can undo mistakes while the machine is running, but machines and disks still crash. Worse, computers are now vulnerable to viruses and ransom wear attacks. A good defense is to back up a copy of your data. The best defense is to back up your entire drive, data, programs, settings and operating system.

There are many external hard drives and software that can allow you to easily do just that. They plug into a USB port on your computer. Make sure to buy a USB3 device as they are 10 time faster than USB2. Special backup software can then make a complete image of your drive, like an electronic photocopy, so that a single file, a directory or the entire drive can be reloaded to return you to a safe state. In this way, if you lose a file you can retrieve it. If you are infected by a virus that cannot be removed with virus protection software, another subject, or a ransom ware attack takes over your machine, the last image backed up can be reloaded to write over any virus or ransom ware encrypted files and you are back in business. The worst-case scenario is that you lose the data since the last backup. Even this threat can be reduced if you periodically save important files to a USB drive or to cloud storage while working.

There are many choices for backup hardware and software that range from less than $100 to a few hundred. Here is my routine.

I have a 4TB (4,000,000,000,000 byte) USB3 drive that is turned off while I am working so that even if my computer is taken over, the latest backup cannot be accessed. I use a program that places the backup software on a USB dive and makes it bootable so I can start the computer and don’t have to access a possible infected hard or solid-state disk. The program I use starts the UNIX operating system that can read Windows and Macintosh files systems. Once booted, I can save or restore an entire image of my disk to include the boot sector, operating system, programs, settings and data, even if my computer has been corrupted or rendered useless by an attack.

Every Sunday, I shut down the computer, turn on the external disk drive, insert the bootable USB drive and boot the computer from it. There is not connection to the Internet so no viruses can be downloaded. I then do a complete image backup to the external hard disk. This can take several hours so I select an option that turns the machine off when the backup completes.

The next morning, I remove the USB boot drive, turn off the external hard disk, boot the machine normally and begin working. During the day, I will insert a data USB drive and copy critical files to it, then eject the USB drive so an attack can’t corrupt it. Every Monday through Saturday (when I don’t take a day off) I shut down the machine, turn on the external disk drive, insert the USB boot disk with the backup program and boot from it. Then, I perform what is called an incremental backup where only the files that have changed since the last backup are saved. This usually takes less than 15 minutes. The next Sunday, I make a new, complete image backup. In this way, I can recover to the last backup copy I’ve made or to a previous time in history if I accidentally corrupt a file. After three complete cycles, I delete older backup files to save space on the USB drive. At that point, they are no longer needed.

You might say that you store all your data on a cloud and don’t need to backup because the cloud provider does that, however, even cloud computers are susceptible to attacks, or the company hosting your data could have a service interruption or go out of business. A local copy of your work is valuable insurance. Though I spent decades in the computer industry, you don’t have to be expert to make safety backups of you computer. Just follow the direction in the box.

David A. Wimsett spent four decades in the computer industry as a developer, project manager and head of a consulting firm. He recently left to pursue writing full time. His books include Beyond the Shallow Bank – women’s historical fiction with elements of Celtic mythology, and The Carandir Saga – an epic fantasy series set in a multicultural world or gender equality consisting of Dragons Unremembered, Half Wakened Dreams and the forth coming Covenant With the Dragons that will be released in the spring of 2022.

The Worldwide Web is 30 Years Old

It has been some thirty years since people began using the Internet through the Worldwide Web, www.

I first saw the Internet at a research center in the 1980s. At that time, It was used to exchange scientific documents in text form between universities, government contractors and research facilities. There was no general public access.

When the worldwide web was introduced, one intention was for people of divergent believes and backgrounds to have a place to exchange ideas in an electronic town hall meeting so that everyone could better understand how other people felt to foster respect and find solutions to problems built from these exchanges. It still offers that ability, as well as the opportunity to keep up with family and friends, and to learn new things.

Yet, much of the chatter has fallen into commercial advertising with people trying to sell some product and service. In Facebook groups about writing, I have seen thoughtful answers to questions posed by members. Many of these answers have helped me. I have also seen replies in which someone is just trying to sell a service without any helpful suggestions at all.

The Internet has also spawned groups and communities whose members are closed to any opinion that they do not agree with. These people are not willing to listen to facts or opinions that contradict their stickily held beliefs. Some of these people demand quick, simple answers to complex questions and the answer they want to hear is, “It will all be taken care of if you follow these easy steps.”

The truth is, we face many complex issues and different people have pieces of the answers. Unfortunate, there are those who only listen to one politician, one religious leader or one celebrity who they believe to have all the answers, even when they don’t.

This does not have to be the case. All of us, every human being, has the capacity to think critically and understand things, even complex ideas. Some people have expert knowledge in particular areas and others have the temperament to see things in a specific way. Still, given time and effort, we can all use our brains to comprehend intricate concepts.

Like a knife that can be used to cut fruit for a salad or to injure someone, the Internet is neither angel nor demon. It is our actions that determine if it is a tool to help ourselves and others or a wall to cut us off possibilities we want to avoid.