What can we say about 2012?
Hmmm. It was the year we were told that the personal computer is dead and, as if on cue, Microsoft introduced something called Windows 8, which by all accounts may not just be the worst version of Windows ever, not just the worst operating system ever, but very possibly the worst product of any sort ever. So if the personal computer does disappear, we can say that Microsoft did its part.
I'm thinking about this in particular because I just upgraded the operating system on my two computers to a new version of Trinity Linux.
As usual, one of the machines took the upgrade without a hitch while the other fought me for two days. (There is a certain zen to computing; after being around computers awhile one knows – without knowing how he knows – something to try to fix a problem and it ends up working.) But now I have both machines functioning pretty well and am in fact writing this on the one that misbehaved.
I should note that anyone who is stuck with Windows and who would like to try something else may do so, entirely free of cost, by downloading and burning the "live CD," available at www.trinitydesktop.org/wiki/bin/view/Documentation/LiveCDs. Then you can boot from the CD, and play around with it without altering anything on your computer's hard drive. If you like it, you can then install it – right from the CD, again, no charge, no registration, nothing – in place of or even alongside your Windows installation. There are tens of thousands of applications for it, all free. I've used Linux exclusively for 15 years as of this week. (The reason one machine causes me difficulty is that I try to keep carefully constructed configurations for the way I do things, some of which are from the last millennium.)
Which brings us back to year's end. Among the memorable events of 2012 was the way we celebrated the hottest days at the beginning of July. On the penultimate day of June, you may remember, a great red blob appeared on the weather radar and, minutes later, numerous trees had assumed a horizontal attitude. We spent a sweltering week or two imitating life in the 19th century, before electricity. (Last week, during the slush storm, the power went out here for a few hours; in my experience it is easier to get warmer when you're cold than cooler when it's 100 degrees, all else being equal.)
I do have one small accomplishment about which to crow, sort of. The year now ending was the first calendar year since my teens that passed without my taking a single puff on a cigarette. Two and a half years ago, without intending to quit smoking, I got and played with one of the then-new "e-cigarettes," the cigarette-lookalikes in which the white part is a battery and the filter part contains some nicotine and flavor, in a liquid that turns to smoke-like steam. They were, I found, entirely satisfying, and for me they replaced cigarettes (and tar and other chemicals which are very bad for a person) almost entirely. Still, if I were out with friends or associates and the battery went dead, I would still bum a cigarette. Well, in 2012 I didn't bum any cigarettes.
Are e-cigarettes good for you? Probably not. But they're not as bad for you as tobacco smoke is, by a long shot.
I'll not rehearse the tragedies and losses of 2012, in part because we're familiar with them and in part because we're not in agreement as to which events were tragic, and it would be a shame to begin the new year with a shouting match. In the last week – I'm writing this Friday – there have been a few notable losses on which I suppose we can agree, though. Jack Klugman died. He was 90, so he had a good run. It was amusing to see this detail: the American obituaries all led with his having been the co-star of television's "The Odd Couple." The overseas papers, though, accented his fame as deriving from the "Quincy, M.E." drama series.
On the dame day, Charles Durning died. His best performance, to me, was alongside Newman and Redford in "The Sting." The 89-year-old Durning was less remembered though it is no less true, for his heroism in World War II. He was in the first wave at Normandy on D-Day and got badly wounded nine days later. He recovered and went back to the fighting; and was bayoneted by a German soldier – whom he then killed with a rock. He was captured at the Battle of the Bulge. He escaped. He fought on and was wounded again. A remarkable guy.
And on Thursday we learned that Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf had died. Suffice it to say that for a generation of Americans he was the kind of guy we'd like to have running an army.
It is sad that they are gone.
It is not sad that 2012 is gone. What can we say about it? "Good riddance" comes to mind.
And let us pray that 2013 is much, much better.
Editor's note: Dennis E. Powell was an award-winning reporter in New York and elsewhere before moving to Ohio and becoming a full-time crackpot. His column appears on Mondays. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.