Category Archives: Random Thoughts

Once Upon an iPhone

In a ‘Norman Rockwellesque’ vision of America; innocent and replete with small town intimacy and wholesome family values, you might imagine ‘Grandma’ or ‘Grandpa’ sitting in front of the fireplace on a quiet evening, reading a story to a hushed circle of spellbound grandchildren.
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Take a 50 year leap forward to the present with me and see how technology has spawned a ‘future’ that is surprisingly more Rockwellian than Orwellian. If I had not been so mesmerized by the scene I might have grabbed my camera so you could see this for yourselves and, I suppose I could have asked the participants to pose for a reenactment, but that would have looked contrived.

Setting the Scene:

It is the summer of 2007. Grandma has rented a house by the beach and invited the family to join her for a week of sun, fun, and relaxation. The house is equipped with wireless internet access and the dining room table is ‘computer central’ with one Macbook (mine) and one Macbook Pro (grandma’s).

Players:

A, definitely non-1950’s, Grandmother, one son (myself), one daughter-in-law (my wife), three grandchildren, and a girlfriend of one of the aforesaid grandchildren. The age range for the grandchildren is 15 to 20. You can extrapolate everyone else’s ages from there.

Scene:

It is early evening and everyone is back from the beach and getting ready to go out to dinner. My wife and I are the last to come downstairs and are greeted by this tableau at the dining room table. Grandma is seated in front of her computer screen and is reading out loud. She is surrounded by grandchildren, all of whom are listening with rapt attention while looking over grandma’s shoulder to see the screen from when comes the source of her story.

Grandma is not reading “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”. She is reading, from the New York Times online, David Pogue’s review of Apple’s new iPhone. Continue reading Once Upon an iPhone

Flex-Time for Cows

    Lest you think this has turned into an agriculture site, this isn’t really about the cows. It isn’t really about enlightened farming practices either although the sight of proactive cows in charge of their own milking schedules was really cool.
  • Scene One: Bucolic Farm Scene
  • Child with freckles and dungaree coveralls sits in the barn in the early morning. He/She is humming to him/herself while sitting on a small wooden stool and milking a contented cow; squirting milk into a metal bucket.

  • Scene Two: Industrial Blight
  • Smoke belches in the dark gray sky that could be any time of day. Cows are penned in cages, standing miserably in their own excrement and unable to move. They are fed hormone laden slop and hooked up to machines that suck all the milk out of them.

  • Scene Three: Age of Convergence
  • Cows line up lazily outside the milking area when they feel like being milked. One at a time they walk into the milking area and the Lely automatic milking machine opens its gate. The cow lopes in where it can feed on alfalfa rich food and have its udders cleaned before the automatic computer guidance system connects the milking cups.
    The results: less mastitis, more milk, happier cows and an interesting reflection of our changing views on work, society, and self-determination.
    Continue reading Flex-Time for Cows

    Googlethink

    Yesterday I downloaded the most recent build of Parallels Desktop for Mac. All went well until I tried to reinstall the new version of Parallels Tool. Then the screen went black. I shut down Parallels and restarted Windows. I heard the spooky XP start up chime but the Windows desktop was still black. I checked the User’s Manual. I went online to Parallels’ website. No luck. Then I decided to “Google” the problem.
    Continue reading Googlethink

    More Bite: More Shifting Paradigms

    It used to be, when it came to being old and having dentures, keeping those suckers in your mouth while munching on solid food was pretty much the height of expectations. Well guess what these old folks want to do now! kiss.png
    So if 30 is the new 50 then, by extension, 40 must be the new 60. I won’t ask where the old 30 and 40 disappeared to except to quote Wordsworth, or Brian Wilson; “The Child is the Father of the Man”.
    Continue reading More Bite: More Shifting Paradigms

    A.A. Milne on Cause and Effect


    “Now We Are Six (Pooh Original Edition)” (A. A. Milne)

    Wind on the Hill

    No one can tell me,
    Nobody knows,
    Where the wind comes from,
    Where the wind goes.

    It’s flying from somewhere
    As fast as it can,
    I couldn’t keep up with it,
    Not if I ran.

    But if I stopped holding
    The string of my kite,
    It would blow with the wind
    For a day and a night.

    And then when I found it,
    Wherever it blew,
    I should know that the wind
    Had been going there too.

    So then I could tell them
    Where the wind goes…
    But where the wind comes from
    Nobody knows.

    Alan Alexander Milne

    Net Neutrality: Don’t Worry Your Pretty Little Head About It

    It’s election season, the time of year when we are bombarded by commercials featuring obnoxious, supercillious, and condescending announcers telling us what we think and why their opponents are enemies of the people. It grates at my sensibilities to be told that I shouldn’t vote for so and so because they don’t share my values. It angers me to see our multi-colored world reduced to a black and white caricature.

    So it was against this backdrop of political vitriole that the senatorial, guberatorial, and congressional rhetoric was interrupted by a cable company spot on Net Neutrality. The upshot of the commercial was all we needed to know about net neutrality was that it would cost us money. Don’t worry about the confusing details, the condescending announcer reassured, the cable companies have your best interests at heart.

    Insulting? Yes. Surprising? Unfortunately, no.

    While I haven’t paid close attention to the issue, the people I consider to be opinion leaders in the blogosphere come down on the side of net neutrality. None of them, to my recollection, have suggested that they were hoping it would be a costly alternative. So, in the interest of those of us who like to make up our own minds about what is important and what we think, consider the following links to Rocketboom , the Daily Show, and Save the Internet.

    While these links aren’t presenting unbiased information, they are providing information and not insulting my intelligence by telling me that the issue is too complex for me to worry my pretty little head about it.

    Katrina and the Rising Tide

    Thousands still cling to their homes where the upper floors are yet dry, but thousands more have need to be removed in boats and established in great camps on the higher ground. Other thousands are camped upon broken levees. This is the pitiable plight of a lost battle.

    27,000 square miles were inundated….An estimated 330,000 were rescued from rooftops, trees, isolated patches of high ground, and levees. The Red Cross ran 154… tent cities. A total of 325,554 people, a majority of them African American, lived in these camps for as long as 4 months. An additional 300,000 people outside the camps were fed and clothed by the Red Cross. Most of these were white. Of the remaining 300,000 people most fled. A few cared for themselves surviving on their own food and on their own property.

    The first quote above is from the U.S. Commerce Secretary and the second from a New York Times report. The commerce secretary was Herbert Hoover and the flood occurred in 1927.

    Continue reading Katrina and the Rising Tide

    Real Men Don’t Ask Directions

    A good illustration of alternative modes of ‘direction-seeking behavior’ comes courtesy of Douglas Adams’ private investigator Dirk Gently who, in


    “Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul” (Douglas Adams)

    explains the method he uses to find his way when he gets lost. His technique involves finding a car that looks like it knows where it’s going and following it. Gently says “I rarely end up where I was intending to go, but I often end up somewhere that I needed to be”. I sometimes employ this same technique. I also find that, when there are a number of cars on the road, I will decide in favor of the direction in which a majority of them are headed.

    This behavior can be observed well outside the realm of automobile travel. In research I often find myself following the research trail of scholars who seem to have a much better idea of where they are going than I do. In fact, like Dirk Gently who believes in the fundamental interconnectedness of all things, I often find that I end up somewhere I needed to be.

    One downside to this approach is the very real danger that you might end up more lost than you were to begin with. Another downside is that interesting and distracting things will lure you, Siren-like, to the rocks. I find that a trail of breadcrumbs, a ball of yarn, or any other method of finding your way back to the last place you actually recognized is essential. And I suppose, in a worst case scenario, I might even consider asking directions.