Friday, May 6, 2011


I did not feel compelled to comment upon the demise of Osama Bin Ladin. What is worthy of comment, in some small way, is the "conversation" over the alleged images of the body. I say "alleged," simply because there appear to be some who believe that these images do not exist, because "the US just made it up."

Some claim we need proof, for some sort of catharsis. What I sense is that most of these people just want to see dead people. Killed dead people. Like small boys at play they taunt; "if you really have a frog/gun/girlie magazine, you have to show it to us." Mr. Obama, arms crossed, says "Not gonna." Wise man.

I understand what these photo-voyeurs want. Every time there is an accident on the road I am travelling, I see it. The news folks call them "rubber-neckers." The road is clear in all lanes, but they stay at 15mph, hoping to see a splat of blood, dismembered limbs, a Body.

What is strange is their fascination AND the probability that they will be disappointed. Over the years, we've seen plenty of pictures of "real" dead people, and plenty of Hollywood corpses on NCIS and the various "CSI:YourTown." Fact is, real dead people look fake, while Hollywood dead people "Look so Dead, They Could Be Live!" Talk about a jaded populace. Life imitates Art.

For those who think the US just made up the story, I am therefore quite confident that the technology exists to give us a wide selection of photos of a "dead" Mr. Bin Ladin, with or without bullet holes. With the body gone and nothing left but stains on the floor, someone is going to have to work hard to prove who was the "victim" of the raid in Abbottabad.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Enter the Green (r)Evolution, Phase Two

I think of Douglas Adams' "subsistence" theory of mankind's evolution. The first, caveman phase is "When will we (next) eat?" The second phase is characterized by "What shall we eat?" And the final phase is "Where shall we have lunch?"

We are going through a similar phase in our Green (r)Evolution. We have moved beyond totally ignoring the problem (maybe I should have used the Death progression here? Denial, anger acceptance?) and have moved into action. LCD video, windmills and solar generators, hybrid cars and flourescent/LED lighting.

We may have moved into the next phase; Mrs. FX and I actually had a mild dustup over when to run the dishwasher. We had a little disagreement over whether or not to run the dishwasher. We had used up all of the plate-and-bowl space, but only used about 50% of the top rack. I determined that it was time to run it, but not without doing a walk-thru of The Abode, seeking stranded glassware and snack plates...having done All That I Could, I got out the soap & began to prep. Mrs. FX chided me for running a not-full dishwasher, and, for a moment, I agreed with her. We have evolved to the point of doing our meal-planning around the remaining available space in the dishwasher. None of this "let's eat Vegan tonight!" for us, just "What can we make that utilizes three soupbowls and a cookie tray?"

I decided that I was not going to live vicariously through my appliances, and, by Heaven, I was going to wash, even if I had to do extra chores to get back into Grace. I'm still doing extra chores...

Saturday, April 16, 2011

iPads aren't as new as you think, when you think about it

The iPad revolutionizes the whole notion of techno gadgetry! Yet, when I think about it, this is another case of people catching up with technology. Touch-screen technology has been around for more than a decade, with only a few applications gaining any measureable traction. The fact of the matter is, only a few could mentally bridge the user interface. I posit that a generation of young people growing up with handheld games provided an "experienced" population that could kickstart the trend to the micro-user interface. Next, the advent of the cell phone and texting broadened the base and gave rise to innovation in trying to address those shortcomings.

One shortcoming is everyone who simply has to have a qwerty keyboard. RIM has made a niche market of those who cannot make the texty shift to 10 keys, but the market analysts show that the need for this crutch is falling off fairly rapidly. I say "good." In 20 years, we might finally be rid of the only known technological innovation specifically designed to cripple the user (the qwerty keyboard was designed to slow typists down in the days of mechanical typewriters). On the other hand, I found the onscreen keyboard too alien for blogging or any activity with a lot of input, so I bought the bluetooth keyboard, too.

Insofar as the other required technologies giving rise to the iPad; I have seen it blogged that the current generation of small, low-power devices are a direct result of the efforts put into the Open Source OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) project. Lighter, cheaper battery technology, low power consumption (doesn't the OLPC have a wind-up mechanism?) and a return to not-bloated software, if that's a real phrase.

Have you noticed that the iPad is sort of the domain of the young and the old? At the office, the big users are mostly past 50, with a few younger users. If younger women have them, they're not telling, but the young men all have Droids or iPhones. Middlin' young folks from 13 to 30 are doing very well with their touch screen phones, thank you. After a fashion, they have leapfrogged the touchpad revolution and are already in the middle of The Next Big Thing. the iPad is just there so that the rest of us can catch up. I know that I am having fun with mine!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Tilting at Windmills

How many laptops can dance on the head of a pin, I ask you? Back at the ranch in FX land, we have had whole tribes of young bucks thrashing the daylights out of a simple home network that has ample security laid on, with few glitches and plenty of bandwidth. A trip out to the local bookstore (a Big Name one that is not closing stores), and the bandwidth is abysmal. The network blocks streaming and most other forms of serious utilization, so I wander by the 7 people that are online to see who is downloading the entire 50GB+ Microsoft patch library, and all are just doing the email thing. Another half-dozen are chatting like mad on the iPhone, but that's texting, and no great demand.

There has to be a reason for this, but the economics of crappy public wireless are beyond me. I come to the bookstore to browse the books, Have a $4 cup of coffee, and connect to the internet, in an environment that has people to stimulate the intellect, and generally hang out. I need to write a letter, I suppose. "Dear Sir/Madam; what is the compelling reason behind offering internet connectivity at your store that is so slow, the obligatory bookstore page takes 5 minutes to load?"

OK, they are booksellers, not techno-pundits. Nevertheless, they are a mere step below librarians, who, as all who read more than traffic signs and menus are aware, know where to find anything. This means that they should know how to adopt technologies which at a minimum, provide instant access to the bookstore website.

It is possible that they were early adopters, back when most folks were connected by modem, and they entered into a zillion-year contract with AT&T for a 56kb link. So, they are stuck with this, and cannot think about the possibility that, for $80 per month, massive additional service is available from the local telcos & cable providers. As long as I am making excuses for them, it is also possible that they are "stuck" via the landlord. My favorite do-it-yourself computer store (now deceased) had to share a 56K circuit with 10-15 other stores and could not, apparently, negotiate with the telcos & cable folks for a better deal. However, one would think that a national bookseller chain would have slightly more influence than a simple shopkeeper.