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Disconnect

January 9, 2013

I just read a couple of articles (this one and this one) that explain how our technology is making us ‘less human’ in a manner of speaking. I would strongly recommend reading both the articles, they’re pretty damn fascinating.

The argument is that in a day there is a limited amount of highly focussed attention that we can give any one thing without “burning out”, or completely exhausting ourselves. Which is something that we can figure out ourselves, I think. Doesn’t take the brain the size of a planet.

But they also mention that we live in the middle of an information glut. With cellphones ringing all the time, and Facebook and Twitter perpetually reminding us that there’s people to talk to and stuff to look at, it’s pretty hard to focus on one thing. By the time we’ve spent enough time on one thing toreallyget into it, we’ve already received a new tweet from Lady Gaga and our status has been ‘llked’ by about 8 people. Clearly not the most conducive atmosphere to really engage with onething in any depth.

This isn’t a new idea at all… Ray Bradbury used it as the central theme in his book Farenheit 451 (a spectacular book, if you were wondering). A world where people are assaulted with TV and entertainment so much that books and ‘knowledge’ are things to fear, and if encountered, destroyed. After reading it, I realized how close to reality he’d struck, what with people texting while talking to other people, or going for a hike and tweeting about it at the same time. There is a very fundamental ‘humanness’ to sitting down with someone/something and really getting to know them/it. I really enjoy my research, because it forces me to slow down and think.

And as the BBC article also points out, if we get used to instantly forming an opinion, or get accustomed to instantly ‘liking’ or ‘disliking’ something that someone has done, it’s a lot easier (effort-wise) to just fall into that routine and not engage with anything substantially, and that’s a pretty scary thought. Everything that I findreallyenjoying in any way takes a hell of a lot of time and effort, but after putting in that time and effort I’m a pretty satisfied person.

I really need to figure out when to listen to what channel of communication so I don’t get sucked into this endless loop of yelling my opinions at the top of my voice. As Ze Frank would say… slow down.

P.S – +10 irony points for posting this on Tumblr and automatically tweeting it at the same time.

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Internet

May 4, 2012

After a long and detailed period of highly intensive research, I have arrived at a monumental conclusion.

The internet is never fast enough.

In college (the one where I study (goof off – Ed.) to be clear) we’ve got a blisteringly fast internet connection. And I do mean it’s pretty damned fast. At it’s best, Youtube videos load in the blink of an eye, and I get upwards of a 1 MBps download rate. That’s plenty fast enough to keep the most finicky among us satisfied… mostly.

What I want my internet to feel like

What I want my internet to feel like

Unfortunately for me, my college is filled with other people as well who are using the internet to similarly procrastinate, dodge and generally jump through hoops to avoid work. And that leads to some frustrating waiting times.

I have to wait ten seconds for this movie to download?!

And then I’m done with college, and I get home. At home, I’ve got this humble little mobile broadband stick thingy that, in it’s own little way, annoys me massively. In all the adverts, it yells at it’s shrillest about how stunningly fast it is, and how absolutely nothing is beyond it’s reach on the internet. I will match the speeds of actual cables running into your computer, it lies. You will never know the difference between a little stick thing attached to your computer, and a longer wire-thing sticking out of your computer, it claims.

What my internet feels like

What my internet feels like

Once it’s actually in my computer, however, it’s a massively different story. It just sits there, and decides that now is a great time to hibernate, and it firmly refuses to respond to any of my pleas. It’s almost the same story as me and my fellow scholars at college, except on a nationwide scale. Basically, anyone with the same internet plan in the country is given the same bandwidth allocation. Which makes for some really frustrating waiting times.

I have to wait for ten hours for this movie to download?!

I think this is more of a universal phenomenon. Once you have a glimpse of the slightly faster internet speeds, one postulates and ponders about the possibilities of even quicker internet. Surely, we think, if it’s this fast there are people with even faster internet in the world! Thusly beginning our pattern of dissatisfaction.

I hold not the solution to this conundrum, I am but a mere observer.

The Technology Conspiracy

April 29, 2012

I just noticed this, and I feel like I’ve uncovered some deep, dark secret of the universe.

It scares me, and  makes me think Terminator isn’t too far off in it’s predictions.

Technology has a brain, and the only thing it’s brain is saying is ‘Kill’. I’m not one to be saying things like this usually, I’m an avid technophile.  As Eddie Izzard would say, I have technojoy. Definitely all for the progress of technology etc., with the caveat that I’d like to opt out if they”re trying to murder me.

Maybe I’ve overstated things a bit. But it’s definitely true that they’re conspiring. Let me illustrate my point.

They're all so smug, aren't they?

They're multiplying!

I’ve got two phones with me, one slightly buggered Nokia, and a slightly non-buggered I-wanna-be-an-iphone Nokia. I usually carry the wannabe around with me.

One day, while walking up some stairs, I could almost hear it saying “Goodbye, cruel world!” as it leapt from my hand down a couple of stairs, where it proceeded to fling it’s innards all over the place. The sim card, the phone’s back cover and the battery were all approximately about sixty feet from each other. Once I had procured the individual pieces and had managed to put the whole thing back together again and resurrect the beast, I was happy. Phone was working okay, and major mishap averted.

Yes? No.

The phone was bitter because I had popped in and not let it die in peace. It was bitter, and it sought revenge. So it started plotting. It plotted with my computer (initially) to make my life as uncomfortable as is (technologically) possible. A week or two after this incident, I’m chugging along merrily when I notice that my phone was off, which was clearly not my fault. So I switched it back on, and it iinformed me that my sim card had been rejected.

Ah.

But, I proceeded to argue with my phone, it was the same sim card in it a week ago, and two weeks ago, and three weeks ago etc. What can you possibly find fault with now? I was quite pleased with my argument, and figured I’d won when on a restart my phone was working okay again. But ten minutes later, it informed me that it had rejected my sim card again. Further arguments proving futile, I decided to Google it.

When I went to my computer to turn it on, I noticed that the battery light was blinking orange and white. This has happened once or twice before when the computer accidentally overheated, and I gave it not much thought. The Google search yielded quickly, and I found that my sim card was damaged, and that was the cause for my phone’s erratic behaviour. This is easily fixed… just get a new sim. Although getting a new sim is a long, laborious process mired in red tape, and all the credit has to go to those moron terrorists who thought this was a good loophole to exploit. But I dither.

Having not initially noticed my computer’s battery throwing a fuss, I definitely did notice when it started blinking every time I charged it. Now I was getting concerned, and the first doubts of suspicion were sown in my head. Upon Googling this as well, I found out I was either not using my battery enough, or it was dying. After a couple more days of rigorous (hah! – Ed.) testing, I have mostly eliminated the former possibility. Thus, as the seeds of doubt were sown, the seeds of suspicion had sprouted into nice, healthy plants.

This is what I imagine sits in my phone

This is what I imagine sits in my phone.

Clearly my phone had conspired with my computer to bork at the same time, so both my lifelines to people outside this city would be left hanging.

Cunning plan, I agree. But insofar reasonably sensible (Like anything so far made sense. – Ed.) as things go. Here is where it gets really scary though. I was working on a computer in college, a computer that had basically been on for several months with nothing significant happening to it whatsoever (Linux ftw!), but the moment I unloaded my computer (to check email etc. while the other computer was computing) and my phone (for no real reason) in front of it, and left it unmanned for about five minutes, it had hung. Massively, completely un-recoverably hung. And I blame my cellphone’s evil intentions. It saw an eventuality that it had not planned for, and it improvised. And it improvised really well.

Clearly technology is bent on destroying us.

Run while you still can.

A Limerick to a Newborn (Tyrant)

April 26, 2012

Note: I realise that limericks are only five lines long, but think of this as a super limerick – Five verses of five lines. I wanted to write this last week but circumstances were unfavourable (so to speak)

There once was a lady MB,
Who was as strongheaded as strongheaded could be,
And when she took power,
Oh man, was she sour,
And the law was now her’s to decree.

This strong-willed lady of Bengal,
Had once protested Government (the gall!)
She stood by the farmers,
Calling Government “You harmers!”,
She won people’s confidence (once and for all?)

While in Opposition she was vociferous,
Citing the Right to Dissent was obvious,
Now that she’s become minister,
Dissent… well, that’s pretty sinister,
She’ll throw you in jail, with a purpose.

Bullying academics is her hobby,
If she had her way, there’d be a whole lobby,
To stifle and malign,
“Just shut up and sign,
You’re going to jail, Mr. Bobby”

Speak to her, and say the word ‘free’
And she will try to convince thee,
Why have a democracy,
When you can have an autocracy,
The vile old lady, MB.

Brain Crack

April 14, 2012

It’s exam time where I am, which ofcourse means that I’m spending a massive amount of time on the internet being useless. On one of my several jorneys across the vast, untamed wilderness I stumbled on Brain Crack.

What is brain crack? This guy (Ze Frank) explains it pretty well :

An idea that you think is really worth it, but you just haven’t gotten around to doing anything about it. I have a habit of sitting on an idea for so long, it eventually rots and then dies in my brain, thus becoming the most potent substrate for more brain crack to grow on and eventually die on.

Unfortunately, I’ve had an idea (which I’ve told people who then offered to pretend to not know me in public) which I don’t know what to do about. On the outset, it seems like an idea doomed to failure, but that’s what the internet is for. So this is how it works –

Car Horns – Noisy, horrible things. They tend to sound like this –

 

But then I had an idea. They are largely (exclusively? I don’t know, I haven’t done any significant research) only one note. It may not be a very nice sounding one, but that opens up possibilities. Different car manufacturers could decide to only include a specific note for the car’s horn, and each manufacturer would get a different note. So depending on which cars are on the road, you’d hear different chords and different sounds.

So here’s what two cars would sound like – 

And this is what three cars would sound like –

 

And in this one, there’s a subtle blues chord happening.

 

I think this sounds a lot nicer than arbitrary noises in a traffic jam. I just don’t have the faintest on how to actually pitch this idea to anyone who’d be vaguely interested.

A solid contribution to the world, indeed.

The Story of the Bahrain GP (or Why Formula One Should Flex It’s Political Muscle)

April 13, 2012

Formula One is a massively popular sport. It has a season spanning about eight months and 20 races, and in 2008 had 600 million people watching every race. That’s a pretty sizeable impact, by my standards.

It so happens that one of the races this year is taking place at Bahrain. Bahrain, you may remember had massive protests last year, where protesters demanded greater freedom and a greater respect for human rights standards. Following a really harsh crackdown by the government, the protests have turned into anti-government and pro-democracy movements.

In the background of all this, F1 has scheduled itself a race to be held at Bahrain. It was cancelled last year due to the protests which erupted a month or so before the race was scheduled to be held. Following that, they decided to go ahead with it this year. I don’t know if Bernie Ecclestone is evil, misinformed, or just an idiot, but he cannot be oblivious to the situation in Bahrain. He insists that “nothing is happening”, and he knows people who live there and it’s all “quiet and peaceful”. Unfortunately, things really haven’t been all that peaceful, but Bernie has shrugged off responsibility, claiming that the decision to call of the race rests with the organizers of the track.

Oh, right. Well that ought to do it then. We just have to get word to the organizers of the track. Wait, what’s that you say? The CEO of Bahrain International Circuit is Crown Prince Salman bin Isa Al Khalifa, the son of the King of Bahrain? Well, that’s a bit of a shame.

Mike Lawrence has written a series of wonderful articles expounding exactly why F1 shouldn’t be going to Bahrain. He says that this isn’t a political problem, but a problem of putting the drivers, and the teams at risk. With public outcry about the race coming to town, it will be pretty hard to guarantee that nothing will happen to any member of any team, and that’s a pretty large number of people to guarantee absolute safety for.

While I completely agree with him about the safety, I do think this should be a political problem. Bernie Ecclestone has said that they don’t tamper with internal politics of countries, and that is as it should be. If a country is decided if they would like to be secular or not, or if they are legalizing homosexuality, then that’s entirely their own issue. F1 should stay out of it. But on the other hand, the world cannot sit by and watch people getting murdered, and hide  behind the screen of ‘internal politics’. That’s not being a nice person. They should take a stand. I would say that it is their obligation to take a stand.

One cannot claim to be a sports person, or a scientist, or a businessman, or anything and then claim that it is what they do and hence they are exempt from social obligations. Mark Webber (racing for Red Bull Racing) has it right. He has voiced his concerns about going to Bahrain, although he is still going since he is bound by contract. But sports people have consciences too, as do scientists and businessman. And taxi drivers, and lawyers and doctors and pilots and whoever. I figure the only way that human society isn’t going to hell, is if we pitch in and try not to kill each other.

Formula One, being such a massively popular sport, should be leading the voices criticizing the Bahrain government for acting as it has. But unfortunately it seems that money (once again) beats conscience.

Let’s hope that the race doesn’t happen.

“Common” Cold

April 6, 2012

Scientists are smart chaps, mostly. They tend to give things names which suit the thing. Like, say, fly. Why call it a fly, you ask? Well, because it flies. That makes sense. Good, solid naming strategy there.

Then they name things, just for the lulz. For example, the Common Cold. The guy who coined this name is probably laughing himself to death every time someone catches the “common” cold. For, you see, I think there is nothing common about it whatsoever. It’s a crafty, wily, cunning, sly bugger. It lulls you into a false sense of security, citing it’s peasant-like origins.

“I’m harmless” it protests “After all, how dangerous could I be, if I was so common? You think your species would have let me be, if I was so deadly?”

Why, yes. Now that you mention it, Common Cold, I do believe that’s what they did. For you are not deadly. Oh, no. You are far worse than that. You’re a subtle one. Like a lion waiting for an unsuspecting gazelle to walk by. You sit by, and let your cousins the Swine and the Bird take the limelight. Yes, you claim, they are the deadly ones! They’re the ones to look out for. Me? I’m just a commoner. What do I know?

I have to agree with you there, Cold. You’re far worse than deadly. Unlike your cousins (who shoot to kill), you get into a person and just sit there. Tickle his throat slightly so he’s suspicious, but not fully aware of your presence. Then make him sneeze now and again. Mess with his mind ever so subtly, and then right in the middle of his workday… attack! Take no prisoners. Grab his sinuses, fill his brain with what feels like several anvils, and treat his nose like a machine gun until the poor sap figures it was probably a train that ran into him.

Once the poor guy has sobered up a bit from your brutal, all-out assault on his senses, he will (probably) medicate. At which point you pull one of your stunts again. Like a chap who has his fingers in too many pies, you’re still a cold… but now you’re a fever too! You sway left when he swings right, and you duck when he goes for your face. You occupy his brain, sit in his nose and throat and generally be an all out joy-kill. You laugh in the face of all his “modern” medicines, all the way to the grave where you die peacefully in your sleep. Apparently there’s nothing modern (or ancient) medicine can do to be rid of you.

Common Cold, I salute your courage and resilience.

And I wish you’d never have existed.