(I’ve been meaning to get a post like this for about a week now, and my thoughts have been swimming a lot in various directions, so hopefully this turns out at least remotely close to what I wanted it to.)
Last Wednesday, right after I got off from work, I turned my phone back on and got a text from my dad (forwarded from the local news radio station that he gets news alerts from) that Steve Jobs, the former CEO of Apple, had passed away. I was surprised and taken off guard. I’d known Steve had been sick, I’d known he’d been dealing with health issues a bit these past few years…but I had no idea it was that serious, even with him resigning as CEO just a month ago. It hit me hard.
But why did it strike me so powerfully? I’ve never met him. I’ve rarely watched much of the big presentations of new Apple products he’s made over the years (most times I read about them, albeit somewhat excitedly). And, perhaps most importantly, I’ve never owned a Mac (though not for lack of trying). Although I’ve wanted an Apple computer for quite a few years running now, my family has stayed very attached to Windows, and the size of my wallet compared to Apple’s prices has kept me from straying.
That got me to thinking why exactly I was reacting the way I was. I wasn’t terribly heartbroken or anything, but I was heavily impacted all the same, and I was wondering why. And then just a little bit of the answer came, in the form of the realization that although I’ve never had the chance to have a Mac in my home, I’ve been touched by Steve all the same. After all, I own (and love) a trusty iPod classic, and have for nearly 3 years this Christmas. (I had an iPod Shuffle that I won in a newspaper competition before that.) I live by iTunes for my music needs. My sister has an iPod Touch. And although I’ve never owned an Apple computer, I grew up in the era where our school district relied on them heavily. For the first half of my schooling, we played games on Macs (long live Number Muncher and Oregon Trail, even though I admit I was scared of the former when I was a kid), we wrote on them, we used them for everything. I even used a Mac II occasionally in a gifted class. I’ve long forgotten how to work them, but I look back with fondness on the random programming activities we did with them, however antiquated they may have been.
I also got to thinking about how Steve has affected me past the sporadic list of Apple products I’ve come in contact with. In the days since his passing, I’ve learned about his pioneering use of aesthetic fonts in computing, his large role in the rise of Pixar, and even that he was actually fired from Apple in 1984, then hired back in the late 90s, and had a key part in the resurgence of the company. I’ve seen many articles and stories of his incredible sense of innovation, his strong, wide-ranging vision, his passion for the products he had a hand in creating.
I’ve seen a lot of Internet comments criticizing the reaction to Steve’s death…that the media is putting him on a pedestal, that Apple fanboys see him as something akin to deity. I don’t really see that as the case, but to those who think that Steve’s life was nothing to reflect on, nothing to celebrate…I say think again. Was he perfect? Of course not. Was he the single-handed force behind where Apple is today? Not exactly. He was, to be sure, the main ingredient for those many successes, and of course he has had a role in its shortcomings since he returned to the CEO position, but as with any company, it’s the people behind the scenes who have probably done a lot of the work. He’s not a god, that’s for sure.
But what he is is special. How many people have you seen that have taken a company like Apple and made it an indelible part of not just technological culture, but the culture of the entire world? How many people have you seen that have had a hand in creating not just one iconic thing, but several? (iPod, iPhone, iWhatever…Steve’s most likely been there.) Like it or not, Steve’s vision has helped foster a world where innovation is welcomed, where moving forward is a good thing, and where the sky’s the limit. He’s not the only person who’s helped promote these things…but he’s certainly one of the most prominent we’ve seen in recent years.
He’s one of the first high-profile deaths to happen in the field of technology. (After all, many of them are still quite young. Steve himself was only 56.) It’s a strange, kind of transformative moment to see. It’s one we shouldn’t let just pass us by. Apple may not be all it’s cracked to be, and the same goes for Steve Jobs, but for all his faults, he changed our lives…each and every one of us, regardless of whether we’ve ever touched a piece of Apple or not. He had a dream, and by and large he achieved it…and for that, the world is all the better. Farewell, Steve. Wherever you are right now, never be afraid to think different.
It was 2 or 3 short months before that September day in 2001. I was 9 years old (10 in December), and we were on a monthlong trip that summer to the place where my mom grew up…New York. (Brooklyn, to be specific.) We spent that month taking in New York…visiting different landmarks (the Statue of Liberty, Coney Island), spending time with my mom’s family (aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.), meeting people I hadn’t before, acting silly like a 9-year-old boy would. My sister was 6 (hard to think she was so young then), my little brother was only a year old, and my youngest sister had yet to be born. The memories of that trip are bittersweet for a few reasons…and that visit to the World Trade Center is one of them.
I had a mix of excitement and trepidation. I wondered how they could make buildings so tall…and when we got close and saw them towering above us, it kind of made me nervous. (I’m scared of heights.) The atrium was large and open…there were flags all around (it was the World Trade Center, after all), and tourists and businesspeople milling about. I remember going into the elevator and thinking of my mom mentioning just a little earlier about how our ears would probably pop. The elevator was swift and quick…the more than 100-story ride up was over before we knew it. Still, the anticipation of being near the top of such a high building made it seem a bit longer than it was.
We arrived at the observation deck, on the 107th floor. From here (actually, for pretty much that whole month), my memories are vivid, but sporadic. Thinking about it now, it all comes in weird waves…and it’s a lot of the little things, that a former 9-year-old would keep in his head forever. We had Sbarro’s pizza for lunch. I stood by the window, in the little part where you could almost feel like you were standing in the middle of the air, looking out over NYC, and I felt like I was falling, but I didn’t feel scared (I knew the glass would protect me). There were little maps on the walls pointing out where different areas of the city were from the windows. I marveled at how not-scared I was, being so high up.
The most indelible memory of my time on the observation deck, though? A simple moment where my mom and my sister asked me if I wanted to go on a helicopter simulation ride (kind of like the ones at Disneyland and SeaWorld and the like), which made people feel like they were riding over New York. I got motion sick easily (still do), and I was 9, so I really didn’t feel like it. The way I eventually said no still sticks with me to this day: “Oh, I’ll go on it next time.”
There never would be a next time, but I didn’t know that as we went up to the 110th floor, where the roof was and where people were able to walk around and see an even more unobstructed view of the city. While on the 107th floor, I was calm and happy, up there I was a nervous wreck…the second we stepped out onto the roof, I panicked. There were large barrier fences all around, so I couldn’t have fallen off even if I tried, but there was no way my younger self would have listened to any kind of reason. You could even see how the towers were swaying ever so slightly, which elevated my stress level even more. I stayed close to my mom, on the verge of tears and/or throwing up, and gingerly walked with my family around the roof, waiting anxiously for the moment we could go back inside. Oddly enough, though…I don’t remember much at all about the trip down. I do remember getting in the subway under the towers, and cajoling my mom into getting a pizza-flavored pretzel. (See…it’s strange what’s stayed with me all these years.)
Fast forward to a few months later, that ordinary September morning. I was getting ready for ELP (the gifted-type class I went to once a week back then), when my mom got a call from a close friend in our neighborhood, telling her to turn on the TV. (There were many calls that day like that.) I sat glued to the coverage, probably asking my mom questions, understanding bits and pieces as I went along. We started worrying about my mom’s family in New York…my mom knew that one of my aunts worked not far from the Towers. As we sat glued to the coverage, following every new development, panic in our minds and maybe in our faces, I made the arbitrary decision to stay home from school that day. For pretty much the whole time, I sat watching the news…finding out exactly what was going on. (I had always been the kind of kid who found the news interesting, and as the grim as the subject was, I couldn’t keep myself away. I simply had to know what was happening…and I was scared and shocked, as a 9-year-old is wont to be.) We later found out my aunt was fine, my cousins were fine, everyone in the family was shell-shocked, but OK. I stayed riveted, transfixed by the news footage, seeing those towers, those two towers I had been on top of just months before…turned to rubble and dust and nothing. Just like that.
It’s hard to believe it’s been ten years…a sentiment pretty much everyone’s expressed by now, I know, but really…it seems like both a lifetime ago, and hardly any time at all. I’ve changed a lot since that year, and our country has as well. Those memories of New York (both of the Twin Towers and of the city as a whole) have stayed with me for all this time, and I’m sure they will for much longer than that. I’m grateful I got the chance to see the World Trade Center while they were still standing. I’m grateful that my cousins and aunts and uncles were all OK. I’m grateful I was able to cope with all the pain and suffering and tragedy that I saw our nation go through, even at a young age. I’m grateful for those who lost their lives, for those who gave their time and their service to rebuild New York and the Pentagon back up again, for those who have fought for my freedom and safety. Most of all, I’m grateful…and proud…to be an American. Nothing can change that.
Track List 01 The Christmas Waltz 02 Christmas Day 03 Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas 04 I’ll Be Home for Christmas 05 Christmas Wish 06 Sleigh Ride 07 Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree 08 Silver Bells 09 Baby, It’s Cold Outside 10 Blue Christmas 11. Little Saint Nick 12 The Christmas Song
OH MY GOSH OH MY GOSH OH MY GOSH OH MY GOSH this must come out soon. (And I’m back to Zooey reblogs… :) )
Hey! A post that’s not about how I never post. (What a concept. :))
So last night my two younger sisters, my younger brother, and I played “The Weakest Link” on our PS2. (We’re one of probably a single-digit number of families that actually still own the PlayStation version of the game. Or even know that they made one.) It’s actually pretty darn fun, especially when you’re playing with real people. Anyways, it was one of the weirder games in a while…
3 out of 4 of us were voted off in a row, in the very first 3 rounds of the game. (I was almost voted off in the 4th round, and it usually happens when you’re down to 2 computer players and a human player, but somehow one of them didn’t vote for me. Score!)
For almost every round, the first 3-5 people voted for someone completely different. (Even when we had 7 players.)
A computer player that I was surprised had lasted so long (and hadn’t done very well the entire game) was the one I decided to take with me into the final round, when there was a tie vote and since I was the strongest link, I could choose who to vote off. (This kind of actually goes with the first bullet point.)
Oh, and I won. :)
Also, I just finished playing the ‘98 PC version of “Jeopardy!” at, let’s see, past midnight. I’ve noticed that version is MUCH harder than the Wii or PS2 versions (which I’ve pretty much made my b…ahem, I’ll just give up on this sentence now). Yes, I have both of them…plus the ‘03 PC version as well. We also used to have the old Floppy Disk version, but it’s gone now…I’d love to play that one again, just to see what it’s like now. Anyways, I lost rather badly. (Before FJ, my score was $4200 and the 2nd computer player’s was $4100. She/it bet only $200, and I bet $4001 to cover her. We both got it wrong, along with the 1st computer player that bet almost all of his money, but had a bit lower score than us in the first place.)
So basically I’m a huge game show nerd. And this might have been more pointless than the “I never post!” posts. Ah, well. It takes up space. :)