Category Archives: LifeStyles

Introducing the PandaMusings Blog

While listening to Edith Piaf sing "Milord" and Lara Fabian’s "Caruso" on YouTube; I’m thinking it’s about time to get this blog off the ground
When’s the last time you physically went to a bank branch? a post office?  How many physical checks did you write this month?  How much cash is in your pocket?  How many stamps did you use this month?  Where do you shop?  How many DVD’s and CD’s have you bought in the last year?  Do you balance your checkbook?  Do you listen to radio? Where/When/What?  Do you watch TV? What/When?  What was the first computer you ever used? How big/powerful was it?  How big/powerful is the computer you’re using now?  What magazines do you subscribe to?  Where do you get your news?  Your entertainment?  How do you pay for it.  Do you have a land-line telephone?  Do you use the Yellow Pages?  Have you ever used an automatic checkout machine?
The answers to these, and many similar questions help to illustrate how markedly everyday life has changed in just the last ten years or so.  (My answers are below)  
PandaMusings will be my personal, eclectic take on what it’s like to be alive in these last days of the first decade of the 21st century.   Included will be: experience with various gadgets and websites with potential to impact everyday life, commentary on some public policy issues (I’ll try to consistently fly my airplane here above 60,000 feet and avoid much of the nastier trench warfare that infects so much of our current public discourse), reviews of music, books, and movies that I like — some new and some golden oldies, and (to provide some contrast and context) I’ll occasionally share some personal stories from the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. Sometimes it’ll just be some twitterish postings about what I’m doing at the moment (I’ll not ‘really’ twitter because there’s nothing I can meaningfully say in 140 characters or less).
And just to lighten it up a bit, every once in a while there’ll be a Dick Martin: "I didn’t know that!" moment.
Oh yeah, Me.  You can learn a bit from the profile (off to the left over there), and I probably will be adding other bits from time to time to help clarify a post.
My answers:
  • bank branch, couple of months ago; before that it was over three years.
  • post office, yesterday — was first time in four years btw they didn’t have what I was looking for ($0.05 stamps) — so back to the internet .
  • checks, none — last one was in March 2006.
  • $0 — I do keep $25 in the house to pay for beard/hair trim every 5-6 weeks or so.  When I last spent time in NYC back in 2002, I would take $100 out of the cash machine every day!
  • 1 — first time in more than a year.  I still have two $.037 (100 stamps) coils, and one $0.39 coil — hence the need for $.05 stamps (current rate is $0.44).
  • Shop, supermarket (Publix, Winn Dixie), Target, Wal-Mart, Amazon,, Ebay.
  • 1 CD (Essential Michael Jackson — after he died); no DVD’s — I own about 50 DVD’s and I haven’t watched half of them.  I plan to buy "La Vie en Rose", "Madame Butterfly", and "Luciano Pavarotti Forever".  There’ll be more on this in future posts.
  • I have not balanced my checkbook in over 40 years.  I currently do all my banking online, and it works great.
  • I listen to Sirius satellite radio in the car, and & in the house — more on this in a future post.
  • I do watch some TV in primetime mostly networks in fall/winter; USA, TNT, SYFY in spring/summer — more on this to come.
  • 1st Computer IBM 1620II/CDC1604.  I am writing this post on a Toshiba Qosmio G35AV600 with a dual core 1.83 Ghz processor (conservatively speaking it can probably dispatch over 4 billion instructions/sec), 2GB memory, and over 1.5TB of storage on assorted disk drives.  By comparison the 1620 had 20,000 bytes of memory, could dispatch 20K instructions/second, and had a 2MB disk drive (considered very advanced  back then).  The 1604  had 32,000 48-bit words of memory (roughly 256,000 bytes), could do 100,000 instruction executions/sec (on a good day), had 8 tape drives, and maybe 20MB of disk storage.  The 1604 was the first machine designed for CDC by Seymour Cray, and was considered one of the largest (fastest) machines of its day.  We were lucky if we could get to run without breaking for 8 hours straight (we had many programs with runtimes in excess of 500 hours — 3 weeks).
  • I subscribe to: Scientific American, Analog SF, The Economist, The Wall Street Journal (digital edition), Windows IT Pro, MSDN, Technet (digital edition), SQL Server, Communications of the ACM, and Maximum PC.  As they come up for renewal I am converting to digital or Kindle versions, or cancelling (if no digital version is available) — I will have more on this real soon now.
  • Most of my news comes from emails sent to me each day by the Wall Street Journal, New York Times (email is free — so I don’t subscribe), the International Herald Tribune, and the panel discussion blocks of Foxnews Special Report (daily 6:40-6:55PM).
  • Entertainment – I still watch TV and go to the movies, but increasingly I’m watching favorite TV shows online — in this way I can watch several episodes at one sitting;  I make use of Comcast’s video on demand service.  Mostly my entertainment comes from books which I buy online from Amazon, I also subscribe to for access to most technical computer books.  I own almost 1000 books: about 750 SciFi and mysteries, 200 computer books, and the rest physics, reference, miscellaneous.  Other than the books and $90/month to Comcast (for TV/Internet), I don’t pay for any of this.  I am very interested in viable business models around news and entertainment.
  • I do not have a landline: I have a VirginMobile prepaid cell and a Vonage account.
  • I used to use the yellow pages a lot.  These days down here in Florida the printed yellow pages are a joke; and the internet versions aren’t any better.  I’m finding the Google local search facilities increasingly useful here.
  • Automatic checkout machines were very popular in supermarkets in New England when I lived there.  I found them to be reliable and convenient.  In Florida only Home Depot uses them, and they are not very reliable.
So that’s it.  I was just going to do a short post to get this started, but as usual I’m worse than Joe Biden (sorry Joe) — this is more like a page and a half long. You can find the blog at:
Hope to see you there.