Terrorism

Webster defines terrorism as the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion. America now hears this term every single day. I am not sure what the count of hits on the word terrorism on a google search prior to 9-11 was but now terrorism bring back about 21,300,000 results. God brings back about 130,000,000 and Love brings back about 253,000,000 just to put things into perspective.

Many groups have practiced terrorism. Political and religious ideals seem to fuel the largest and deadliest. Before 9-11 America felt safe, I used to feel safe here. I grew up around terrorism in Colombia. Bombs were not something that you heard about on the news in a far away country, instead it was that loud noise that could wake up late in the middle of the night. I remember two incidents very vividly.

One was at night probably around 8 pm I was visiting my grandparents. We heard a loud explosion that rattled the windows. My grandparents live on a 3-story house with a terrace that kind of overlooks some of the city. We went up to the terrace and saw a fire probably about 5 miles from where we were standing. A pharmacy owned by the cartel people had just been blown up.

The second incident I remember happened just blocks from where I lived. I was playing soccer with my friends when we heard a loud boom. We knew what it was and out of curiosity ran to check it out. Sure enough a bomb had exploded killing a prosecutor that lived in our neighborhood.

Sometimes if my Dad was not home on time we would worry that something could have happened. If a report of some kind of violence was on the news, there was always that fear even though my Dad did not work in a “high risk” job. Still being on the streets at night was not a safe thing when you had to cross rougher neighborhoods to come home.

One of the biggest motivators for my family to relocate to the US was opportunity. My parents knew that here my sister and I would have a better opportunity to go to school and become better people. As a huge added bonus the US was safe, there was no bomb or violence at every corner. Or at least that is how it was painted.

As I developed as a teenager in the US I started to learn that while it was safer here, there was still neighborhoods that were dangerous and places you should not go. In general though most people lived their lives without having to watch their backs at all time or had never even heard a loud explosion except for during Independence Day in a Fourth of July celebration.

It was a very good feeling of security knowing that I was safe. As long as I stayed in the right neighborhoods I would be safe. As long as I was working and living my life I would have nothing to worry about. Then 9-11 happened. And it made that fear come back. That uncertainty set in. It is a feeling that I did not want to experience again and sad enough I understand.

Most people have calmed down now and are not as in shock as they were in 2001, but we are still living terrorism every day. We have our troops fighting this war and the fear of many of our young man and women not returning is a reality. It is also very real to the people that have loved ones in the military. It might not be the same as waiting for Dad to come home on time, but listening to the news hoping that the news report does not include a death toll.

Online vs The Mall

Over the last couple of years I have flip-flopped between online shopping and taking a trip to the mall for buying Christmas presents. Last year 90% of my shopping was done via online stores but this year I moved back to the mall. During the year I buy a lot online, anything that requires power is pretty much purchased on an online store. Books surprisingly enough are almost an even split because I do like to visit the bookstore as well as Amazon.

I do not like shopping unless it is for electronic gadgets, computer parts or video games. When it comes to buying presents for the holiday season the frugal part of my brain shuts down. A week before I would have tried to save even a dollar on a cooling fan, but I refuse to go from one retail store to the next one to see if I can find a comparable piece of clothing for a better price. Comparative shopping is a lot simpler online, but there are some products that I rather see in person no matter how good the picture is online.

This year online sales broke records. My shopping was obviously not included in those numbers since I went to the actual mall. The only thing that I wish I would have bought online was a Walkman for my Dad. I know, why not an MP3 player, lets just say he is old school and if I said MP3 he would probably tell me to go wash my mouth with soap.

I can spend hours surfing several retailers looking for the best price, but in a mall I want to get what I came for and get out. I did actually spend some extra time with a couple of gifts, but for the most part it was quick lucky shopping. When in a mall I shop as efficiently as possible, online I take my time.

Today consumers are a little less afraid of using the computer as a shopping tool. Even though identity theft is on the rise, people are using their mouse and keyboard instead of their legs to do their shopping. Maybe some of my problem has to deal with the crowds. People running into you with their carts, not respecting your personal space, or just overall acting like you are in their way.

I have in the past mixed the two. I ride motorcycles and you cannot beat the prices for them online. What I do is go to the local motor sports shop and try some helmet on, and then purchase it online for a fraction of the price. It is a sure way to know that the helmet you are ordering is going to fit comfortably.

You can say I chose the worst time of the year to visit the mall, but regardless of the crowds the opportunity to get a better deal online is enough to make me want to go that route. Also it is hard to replace actually seeing and touching the merchandise that you are going to purchase. If both places would offer the same price I would keep on going to the mall for quite some time.

Text vs Voice

Electronic devices are now part of our every day life. 10 years ago pagers were very popular, now we hardly ever see them because our little cell phones now have that functionality and a lot more. I still remember when a cell phone had to be carried in a briefcase because of it size. Some of you might even remember the cell phones that looked like a brick and were just as heavy. Now days no one would want to be caught carrying one of those.

With pagers we used to have codes to communicate with each other. I am sure you remember how people used 911 but it was never an emergency, it was always fun to freak someone out if they had a pager. I remember a certain dialer script that would page someone constantly. It seemed like text was the way to go back then.

Little by little cell phones starting to get cheaper and easier to carry, everyone now had a cell phone and it became the norm to talk on the phone everywhere during the 90s. It seemed that you could not escape a cell phone conversation in any public place. I am not saying this is not still happening, maybe I have become somewhat numb to that fact and it does not annoy me as much because I do it too.

I say at the start of 2000 the pager made its second entrance, with two-way pagers. Something that reminded more of a kid’s toy that used to send text across a room, than an actual consumer device. A lot of cell phones also added this functionality to their repertoire. During the next couple of years it seemed like “texting” was all the rage.

Computers started using text communication from day one. It was only logical right! Computers for a while were thought of just upgraded typewriters. Text was the medium that was used the most once computers allowed us to talked to each other. 14.4k modems really did not allow for much data to be transmitted, but that changed during the 56k era. It seemed that more and more people started using both voice and video chat. I never really did much of video or voice chat, I stayed with text as a norm. Now with broadband it is very easy if you have the equipment to carry on an actual voice conversation with even video.

The standard with computers and most of its users to communicate is instant message (IM). High School kids race home to IM their friends instead of picking up their cell phones and making conference calls. Even corporate America has started to use IM systems to let their employees communicate.

Then there is the gaming community. It is very common now for people that game to use a gamespeak or ventrilo server to have conversations with others during games. I still think that most people still use text messages during the game, but depending on the type of game voice is picking up even more. Fast paced team combat is much easier when you are talking instead of typing.

The invention of what is now called a smart phone marries the functionality of the “texting” of a two-way pager, all the features of a cell phone and the IM and email capabilities of a computer. I do not have one of these devices yet, and personally I switch from voice to text all day. I like text better than voice, but it seems like more and more with technology advancing the way it does in our age, that it will not be a logic option to communicate via text. Voice will eventually become the only option, especially once it is married with video in a portable way. I am sure a high school kid has no concept of what turning a knob to change a channel is, think of the future when your grandkids will look at you funny and ask, what is a keyboard?

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