Tag Archive | technology

Weekend Update 10/26/2019: Cold hearts and webs of sin

It is time for another post about news that broke after I posted this week’s Friday Five, or didn’t come to my attention until afterward, or that didn’t quite make the cut, or about a previously linked story which has new developments. As usual I have some opinions that I wish to expound upon regarding this stories.


First: New Poll Finds Voters Strongly Oppose Employer Insurance. This is something I was complaining about during the first couple of Democratic Presidential Candidate Debates: there is a myth perpetrated by conservatives and so-called moderates that the American people absolutely love their employer-provided insurance. And it’s not just the politicians: the moderators at the first couple of debates, for instance, kept framing questions with that assumption as if it were a fact. I was so happy when finally one of the candidates emphatically asserted that almost no voter they have talked to likes their insurance.

What is true is that fear-mongering paid for by the for-profit insurance & pharmaceutical industries (and amplified by the politicians in their pocket) has a lot of people fearing that universal health care will be even worse than what they have now. That’s not the same thing as being happy with their current plans.


Second, this should come as no surprise: New polling suggests that Trump’s evangelical base is totally unified behind the president, no matter what investigations might reveal. I continue to be irritated that people who want to take aqay my legal rights because of some badly translated and cherry-picked parts of the Bible also support a politician whose policies run explicitly counter to every single thing that Jesus is actually quoted as saying in that same holy book. Although it is worthwhile to look closely at the statistics, here. Some people having been crowing about how 99% of evangelical Christians support the president and oppose impeachment. Except that isn’t what these polls show. The 99% is only true of white people who also identify specifically as evangelical AND Republican. When you step out of that demographic and look at other evangelicals, well, the numbers change. And that 99% was from polls taken a few weeks ago. Other polling shows an across-the-board shift in all demographics of more support for impeachment as more information comes out.

I don’t expect the white evangelicals who were chanting “Build the wall” are ever going to abandon Trump, but they’ve also clearly shown that their bigotry drives their decisions more than the actual words in the Bible.

While we’re on the topic of people who quote the Bible but don’t actually follow it: Falwell preparing legal battle against reporter after “smear campaign”. I’ve written so many times about the real estate that he has purchased for the former pool boy who spent a lot of time under questionable conditions hanging out with Falwell and his wife. And about the real estate he ordered Liberty University to essentially give to another former pool boy and personal trainer, one who we know that Falwell was texting pictures of Mrs Falwell in kinky sex gear (we know this because he accidentally group-sent one of the sexts to nearly all of the employees of the non-for-profit ministry of which he is head). And about the blackmailer who had compromising photos of Mrs. Falwell (and perhaps others) who was paid off my Trump’s lawyer conveniently a few weeks before Falwell shocked everyone by endorsing Trump instead of fellow evangelical Ted Cruz. And so on and so on.

So Falwell tried to get the FBI to investigate some of the former employees who spilled the beans about this questionable behavior (which, remember, is being subsidized by tax-payer money because of the tax-exempt status of the ministry and the university and so on). Now he’s trying to scare some reporters and news outlets for reporting on his scandal parts of which may constitute financial crimes. So far, both reporters and the publications say they are standing by their reporting.


Next: Zuck Testified Before the House Financial Services Committee and It Did Not Go Well for Him . Facebook is a force for evil, and I more and more people are recognizing the problems it is enabling: Facebook Slammed for Including Breitbart Among Trusted News Publishers.

And I do think it’s true that part of the problem is that Zuck and his yes-men don’t understand significant parts of the problem Timothy Egan: Facebook’s Zuckerberg still doesn’t get the big picture. But I also think that Zuck and his yes-men are douche-bags who have an almost pathological lack of empathy and an inability to even recognize their own prejudices.


West Virginia shines a spotlight on absurdities of tariff bailout program. “…the real issue is not about farmers, it’s about a government $22 trillion in debt handing out six-figure checks as part of a carrot-and-stick game in which $28 billion in bailouts serve as a political Band-Aid for the injury caused by flawed trade policies.”

China isn’t paying the tariffs, American consumers are. China isn’t really being hurt by the trade war, American farmers and workers are. Paying out billions to try to offset some of the harm to U.S. industries just means that tax-payers are paying for the tariffs twice


Fox News analyst: Republicans are protesting their own impeachment inquiry rules. The republicans set up these rules as part of the Clinton impeachment, and the last time the rules were updated it was when the Republicans had a majority in the House and John Boehner was the Speaker. And here’s the thing: the impeachment inquiry isn’t a trial. The trial happens if the House votes in favor of impeachment, and then that happens in the Senate. So the people screaming about due process either don’t understand the situation or are lying to keep their base hyped up and ready to cause trouble.

While we are on the subject, the Democrats are not conduction impeachment inquiries, the U.S. House of Representatives is. There are Republicans on each of those committees. Those Republicans are at the closed-door sessions as well as the public hearings. Those Republicans get equal time to ask questions and so forth during the committee deliberations.

Both houses of Congress sometimes hold closed-door hearings. When Nixon was under the gun, committees in the House conducted some of their hearings behind closed doors. When Clinton was impeached, committees in the House conducted some of their hearings behind closed doors. One of the reasons you question witnesses behind closed doors during an investigation (which is what this is—it isn’t a trial yet) is so those witnesses can’t get their stories straight. You can catch some of the lies that witnesses tell if they don’t know what the other guys have said.


Samantha Bee Exposes Man Who Invented The Ukraine-Biden Conspiracy Theory:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

All generalizations are dangerous* — especially about generations!

Click to embiggen. Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, Pew Research Center

On Monday night there were two train wrecks happening on blogs I like to read. One thing I like about both blogs is that generally speaking, the comment threads in each one are full of thought-provoking, thoughtful, and generally respectful discussions. Not only could I not stop reading, but in both threads I couldn’t stop myself from commenting a few times myself. Which probably didn’t help either train wreck. But I think I managed to stay mostly reasonable, so I hope we were at the least being entertaining.

In one of those conversations a person made a comment about how some Baby Boomers don’t understand technology, and while it turned out to be a bit tongue-in-cheek (the person followed up by speculating that the person being clueless was actually a ghost from the 18th Century misunderstanding modern copyright law). Anyway, it reminded my that I keep meaning to follow up on the post I wrote three years ago about the cavalier way some people use terms such as “Baby Boomer” and “Millenial.”

Some folks want to list anyone who is over the age of, say, 35, as a Baby Boomer. I’m seen just as many older folks insist that everyone under 30 is a Millenial. Which makes any commentary about the social and economic issues faced by people who grew up in different time periods meaningless.

The term Baby Boom originally referred to the significant uptick in the birth rate when World War II came to an end and when the world economy recovered from the Great Depression. Contrary to over-simplified understandings of history, those two events weren’t the same—the U.S. domestic economy was noticeably improving before the U.S. even entered the war, and the birthrate started picking up during the war itself (though not as dramatically as it did a few years later). So some sociologist and economists tagged the beggining of the Baby Boom in 1945, while others in 1942 or ’43.

Similarly, the birthrate’s rate of increase started slowing down in the U.S. (though not dropping) in the mid-fifties. Later, when social scientists started talking about the Baby Boom generation, many of them placed much importance upon the attitudes and expectations of that cohort based on their formative years being in the 1950s, where, in the U.S. at least, there was an exuberant economic boom and no war. I was in my late teens when I first started reading articles about the Baby Boom generation, and those articles defined is as people born between about 1942 and 1955. Which meant that my mother and father were both Baby Boomers.

Which is one of the reasons I sometimes have a negative visceral reaction to the more current definition, which is people born between 1946 and 1965. Because that makes me a Baby Boomer… and because I spent years thinking of my parents as Baby Boomers and that just seems wrong. Also, I was born after the 50s ended, and by the time my formative years were going, the U.S. was at war in Viet Nam and the Civil Rights movement was causing many to feel that the world was changing for the worse. So I think my assumptions about life are a bit different than those who grew up in the 50s.

The chart that I reproduce above shows only one of the many possible definitions of generational groups. I believe for broad discussions about economics, sociology, politics, and the like that it is useful to make some generalizations about the broad societal conditions that people of different ages grew up under. A lot of people of my mother’s generation (The Silent Generation, people born between 1925 and 1945) supposedly don’t understand computers and modern technology. My mom has very strong feelings about several parts of Quantum Mechanics (word to the wise: if you don’t want to find yourself cowering in a corner, saying you are sorry and will never stray again, do not mention Erwin Schrödinger or his thought experiment about a cat and an atomic trigger within earshot of my mom, okay?). Once, when her computer had been misbehav ing for several months she told me that the reason she hadn’t called me was because none of the errors had risen to the level fo “kernal panic” and she had been able to get everything working again on her own.

Let me repeat that: my 76-year-old mother knows what a kernel panic is and is able to solve a lot of her computer and related problems on her own. So, just because they are a member of the generation before the Baby Boomers doesn’t mean they don’t understand technology.

Punch-card to enter Fortran commants into a computer, circa 1976, when I (a computer professional with more than 3 decades experience) took the only computer science class I ever had...

Punch-card to enter Fortran commants into a computer, circa 1976, when I (a computer professional with more than 3 decades experience) took the only computer science class I ever had…

By most definitions, I am a Baby Boomer. I was programming computers (with punch-card version of Fortran) in 1976 at the age of 15 when most people thought that computers would always be either the size of a large room or a small building. The first personal computer I owned I soldered together myself in 1982 (and I didn’t actually own it, because at that time I couldn’t afford the $99 for the basic kit nor the $49.95 for the 16 kilobyte memory expansion kit that made it useful; the father of a friend bought the kits and I did the soldering and assembly and got to use the machine for two months out of the deal). My current day job official title includes the word “principal” and I am expected to be able to understand all functions from the Physical Layer through the Application Layer with the ability to write specifications for sub-layers such as the Data Access, Business Logic, and Presentation.

And no one should be surprised that most of Generation X (whose original name was Gen X Atari Wave) understands technology, but I’ve noticed that a lot of member of both Gen Y (the original Millenials) and Gen Z don’t really understand how the technology works. They both understand many of the implications of the internet, but to varying degrees, they don’t understand how those things actually work, because it’s no longer necessary to understand things happening below the Presentation layer to use the technology. This isn’t a bad thing, per se. Just as you don’t need to know how to machine a piston in order to operate a car, you don’t need to understand all of that other stuff in order to be active on social media.

Unfortunately, that means that you have situations such as the one that started one of the comment threads I mentioned above: folks who don’t understand what a hyperlink on a web page actually is, will get upset and file a DCMA take down notice on someone who is linking to someone else’s publicly accessible page. But a hyperlink isn’t content, it’s a pointer.

For much of my life, the cliche was that older people didn’t know how to work new technological devices, and that the answer was to find a child who could fix things for you. Some of those “children”—the leading edge of Gen X—are 50 years old now. And some are now shaking their heads looking at the younger people who are much better at knowing how to make things go viral, for instance, but may not even know what HTML is.


* “All generalizations are dangerous, even this one.” ― Alexandre Dumas-fils

Competing narratives, or, how can we tell the good guys from the bad guys?

We haven’t quite got the technology this small, but…

When I was attending university, one of the history classes the fulfilled the requirements was focused specifically on the time period of 1940 to 1980. I was taking this class in the mid-80s, so it was essentially “World War II to now.” A big chunk of our grade was a research paper in which we were supposed to identify the biggest change that happened to the world during that time, and the implications for society going forward. It was clear that the professor wanted us to write about nuclear war or nuclear power, because he had managed to make every historical incident we talked about over the course of the quarter had some connection to one of those things. And I thought that half of what he believed about nuclear power was wrong, and frankly I wasn’t interested in it.

What I wrote about instead was communications technology. How we were struggling even then to come to grips with how quickly news flew around the world and how quickly we were forgetting what we had all been upset/afraid of just last week. And because I am a big sci fi nerd, I speculated about what it would be like when people had devices in their pockets or strapped to their wrists or whatever that gave them constant and instant access to the 24-hour cable news slurry. The professor gave me a decent grade, but he couldn’t resist writing a few sentences explaining why nuclear weapons were a far graver threat to society than television ever would be.

I don’t believe I was being extremely brilliant pr prescient in that essay. People had been writing think pieces about the dangers of tabloid journalism taking over the then-new 24-hour news channels. And the notion of a TV on your wrist had been predicted in Dick Tracy comics decades before. But I still think I was correct that the proliferation of information, misinformation, has had a worse effect on society. Yes, we have terrible weapons of mass destruction that very well might wipe humans (and a whole lot of other species) off the face of the earth—but we’ve also been carrying out a mass extinction event without resorting to nuclear weapons.

However here we are, two decades into the 21st Century, and we have seen how social media bots have influenced the outcome of a U.S. Presidential election, have seen a number of people who have been dog-piled on social media driven to suicide, and seen more than one instance of on-line doxing sending SWAT team to the homes of law-abiding citizens. So I think my essay may have been much more correct that my university professor thought.

In the last week we have had two completely unrelated stories illustrate this point. First: Dallas Gay Bar Manager Fired For Refusing To Serve Transgender Woman. A lot of liberal and queer news sites shared the video of a manager of a prominent gay bar trying to eject some customers. And by the time many of us had seen the video, the corporate owners of said gay bar had already fired the manager.

Here’s the thing… when I watched the viral video, I found it far from conclusive in bearing out the transphobic narrative. There just wasn’t enough context. Clearly things had happened before the beginning of the video, and without knowing what those things were, it just isn’t possible to determine whether the manager’s actions were appropriate. Then once the scuffle began, things get even more confusing.

But, there is video, there is a scuffle, there is what appears to be a white cis man trying to kick a trans woman out of the club. And it is easy to imagine that his motivations weren’t pure.

A couple of days later, things get more interesting: Dallas Gay Bar Manager Speaks Out After Being Fired for Incident Involving Trans Woman. The bar manager’s story is quite plausible. But I understand how easy it is for bigots to construct alternative explanations that seem reasonable, so I’m not sure the manager’s story is true. Maybe he sincerely thought the ID was fake.

I am quite aware of how difficult official ID cards are to deal with. I am not trans, but back in 1992 I legally changed my name. There were several reasons for this: first, I really didn’t want to share the same first name as my viciously abusive father, but also, I had been being called a diminutive of my given middle name since I was a kid, and it just didn’t make sense for my legal name to remain a name that virtually no one called me. However, even though I legally changed my name 27 years ago, I still continue to run into situations where my birth name pops up on records, and I find myself constantly having to explain the situation. Which means that I find it very easy to believe that the trans person in this particular pair of conflicting narratives may be dealing with a simple issue of bureaucracy not keeping up with her current legal situation. There may be a reasonable explanation for why she would have several ID cards from different states at the same time.

Or maybe he only thinks the ID is fake because he’s got some unconscious transphobia going on.

The only thing that I think is clear is that his employer made the decision to fire him based on the social media uproar. The video went viral, and it seems that most of the queer news sites were leaning into the transphobia interpretation of the story, and that is bad publicity for a gay bar, particularly during Pride month (which often accounts for a significant part of the annual profits from bars and restaurants in queer neighborhoods).

No matter who was right, the mob won.


Snagged from the Motor City Pride website.

Then we had this incident last weekend: Armed Neo-Nazis Get a Police Escort to Disrupt Detroit Pride. Pictures and video from multiple sources, not just the crowd. We had a group of Neo-Nazis (they were carrying Nazi flags, wearing swastika armbands, and making Nazi salutes) taking advantage of the open-carry laws to disrupt the Pride festival. And when you show up like that and chant things about killing queers you’re not just stating an opinion: the action is clearly intended to terrorize a portion of the population. Most states, whether they have hate crime laws or not, have laws defining actions intended to “cause public alarm” as a crime. These are most often used for dealing with false bomb threats and the like.

The most alarming part of these videos and pictures are that it appears as if the police are escorting the Nazis. It appears as of the police are trying to protect the Nazis (the ones with the guns and chanting about genocide) from the festival-goers.

The police are trying to spin the story another way: Detroit Police Claim to Quash Neo-Nazi Plot To Spark ‘Charlottesville No. 2’ At Pride Parade. So the police claim that they were there to prevent the Nazis hurting anyone. And they did arrest at least three of the neo-Nazis, though we don’t know what the charges are. And they claim that they warned the Nazis several times not to start burning rainbow flags, because they would have to arrest them. (I’m assuming that the act of setting anything on fire in a crowded place would be the reason for the arrest.)

I have several problems with the police narrative. For one thing, the police chief described “both sides” acting badly. Except he isn’t referring to the Nazis on one side and the queer people on the other. He’s actually talking about an organized anti-fascist counter protest group that was there to counter the Nazis… and therefore were also technically disrupting the Pride festival. But I’ve already seen the police chief’s comments being quoted by bigots as proof that the queer people at the festival were behaving just as badly as the Nazis. Also, when saying “both sides” the police chief is alleging that the anti-fascists were yelling racial slurs at any cop who happened to be African-American, similar to how the Nazis were hurling racial slurs at them. Besides not quite believing that, I also think that the people who were marching with guns while chanting slogans about genocide are still far, far, far more in the wrong than unarmed people yelling bad words.

Maybe this is a no-win situation for the police. Because Michigan is an open-carry state, they can’t arrest people for merely carrying guns, no matter how intimidating it may be. Michigan’s hate crime law doesn’t include sexual orientation, so technically carrying a rifle while yelling into a bullhorn about killing faggots isn’t a crime in Michigan. So the only way to prevent violence is to try to put themselves between the Nazis and everyone else. Unfortunately, that makes it look like they are escorting the Nazis. On the other hand, by appearing to escort the Nazis, it sure as heck looks like the police are supporting them.

Clearly, the Nazis are the bad guys, here. But if even the police officers who recognize the Nazis as bad guys also trot out “both sides” arguments, we’ve got a problem. Queer people holding a Pride parade and festival aren’t calling for killing anyone. Asking to have the same rights as other people isn’t an attack on those people. Celebrating the fact that we have survived despite all the attempts to erase and oppress us is not an attack on anyone. This isn’t merely a difference of opinion between two potentially valid points.

I suppose I should focus on the bright side: no injuries were reported, violence didn’t break out. And even Fox News reported the Nazi actions in a negative light. I think the latter only happened because a lot of people got a picture of the one Nazi urinating on an Isreali flag. So, maybe everyone having a camera in hand was a good thing.

Shiny old toy: today, my Mac Pro Tower turns 10 years old, still going strong!

One of the pictures I took after the delivery of my Mac Pro desktop machine 10 years ago today.

One of the pictures I took after the delivery of my Mac Pro desktop machine 10 years ago today.

My very first computer was assembled from a kit (had to solder some part together myself) way back in the early 1980s, and by default came with only a couple hundred bytes of memory (not kilobytes, bytes!). My first actually useful home computer was an Apple ][e clone, made by one of only two companies to ever get a license from Apple to make OEM machines–and it ran a version of DOS, not Mac OS. I wrote a lot of sci fi and fantasy stories, and more than a few college essay assignments, in Apple Writer on that machine. I also, for a time, owned an Atari 600XL (an 8-bit desktop machine) and did some of my writing it a little program called Paperclip.

Then, when I left college, I got hired by a company that made messaging software intended to run on 16-bit MS-DOS machines with Intel Processors, and since I was doing so much work in WordPerfect and could buy what at the time was a very good Packard-Bell desktop at a (somewhat) reasonable price (only the equivalent of three months’ rent instead of six) because of the company discount, I left the Apple ecosystem for some years. Eventually I moved into Windows, when it came out.

One of the realities of working in all those Wintel machines was that every time I had to upgrade to a new machine, it was a bit of a nightmare. It always took at least a year after moving to the new machine before I finally had everything on it working as I liked. Usually it was because there were always programs that simply didn’t work with the new version of Windows and/or the new hardware. So I got used to the pattern of spending at least a year getting the desktop organized to my liking with all the programs working in harmony, about two more years of using the machine with everything being fine, then a year or so of rising frustration as the machine became slower as some programs were updated, and often simply not supporting the new technologies that the equipment or software I was using expected. Then giving in and buying a new machine, where I would trade the frustration of the slowness and incompatibilities for the frustration of finding much of my existing software wouldn’t work on the new machine.

Another frustration that came in was that my mother started using a home computer, but her machines were always hand-me-downs from another relative. And she had the bad habit for years of clicking on any link that was included in any of the chain emails she received from friends and family (not to mention buying discs of very dubious software from racks on stores). So we got into the habit that every time my husband and I went to visit, my husband would come equipped with a bunch of discs of anti-malware and anti-adware programs, and he would spend more than a day trying to remove all the viruses and such from her machine to get it working again.

Then one summer day my husband called me from his place of work, where he spent his time refurbishing old computers, and proposed that we purchase an iMac he was in the process of repairing, and switching Mom over for her birthday. This required me to also purchase a really crappy (it had a broken hinge) old Mac laptop that would run the same version of Mac OS because, as my hubby correctly predicted, for the first couple of months Mom called every week with a question about how to do something relatively simple, and I would have to walk her through it with such instructions as, “Okay, so there is a white bar with rounded corners in the upper right corner of the dialog box? Can you click in there and then we can type…”

For the next couple of years, we purchased newer refurbished iMacs for Mom, and I kept acquiring refurbed Powerbooks and Macbooks that ran the same version of Mac OS. And eventually I started taking the Macbook with me to conventions because I was remembering all the things I liked about my old Apple ][e—and it was more robust than my Windows laptop.

So, I was seriously looking at replacing my Wintel desktop with a Mac… and I got laid off by the company I’d worked at for over 19 years. So I had to wait a bit. After 7 months at a new job (well out of my probationary period), I started plotting the new machine. My past experiences with the Windows machines made me do just a bit of over kill. I intentionally bought a much more powerful Mac Pro than I strictly needed because I didn’t want to change machines again in five years.

Over the next three years (Apple made it really easy and cheap to upgrade the OS each year) I quickly learned that updates weren’t quite the nightmare they had been before. And as more of my day-to-day writing was being done on the laptop (heck, by then I was doing a lot of writing each day on the bus on my iPod — not any iPhone, and the iPad didn’t exist, yet, but Write Room was a great word processor that worked on the iPod and the Mac!). My desktop was still faster with the layout software (InDesign) and drawing software (Illustrator) than the Mac laptops I owned.

One of the pros of the old Mac Pro towers was that you can do a lot of your own upgrading. So I bought faster and larger hard disks, and then upgraded the memory. Then did a major update to the video card, which helped keep the machine humming when I needed to use those resource-hungry programs from Adobe.

As the computer was approaching its fifth birthday I was finally noticing that when I had a whole bunch of programs open it wasn’t as fast as it used to be, but it was still pretty good, so I mentioned to my husband that I would like to see if I could keep the machine viable for another five years. He scoffed… and then bought me a PCI solid state drive card and a solid state drive to go in it to be my new boot disc. Switching to the solid state drive for booting and for all the applications made the machine screaming fast, again.

I wrote this blog post on the 10-year-old computer, yo.

A couple of years ago we finally hit the roadblock where Apple wouldn’t let me install the latest Mac OS any longer. And the Macbook Pro with touchbar that I bought in the fall of 2016 is faster at some tasks than the Mac Pro. I’ve also replaced Illustrator, Photoshop and Acrobat Pro with less resource intense (And much more affordable) software which works really well on both machines. I haven’t yet gotten a viable InDesign replacement, but I’m also no longer publishing a periodical zine. In any case, at the moment even though I’m a couple of versions behind on the OS with the desktop, the latest and greatest versions of all the applications I regularly use still run on the tower.

I know at some point I’m going to have to retire it. Maybe it will be replaced with a dock that I can plug my laptop into when I want a bigger screen. I don’t know. But for now, please join me in wishing Fabulosity, my Mac Pro tower, a happy tenth birthday!

Confessions of an information junkie

Having multiple tabs open is not a new phenomenon. (click to embiggen(

When I did most of my personal computer work on a desktop machine with a pair of large screens, my husband used to tease me about how many applications I had open all the time. One time when I had a browser window open on one screen, with about 12 tabs open on that browser, and a second browser with a similar number of tabs open on the other screen, he teased me about having two dozen open tabs, and what kind of drain that put on my system resources. I laughed and said, “Two dozen is nothing!” I then proceeded to show him the other browser windows that were minimized. After opening all of them and resizing them did some counting, and said, “Today it’s only about 62 open tabs.”

I have always considered this just a variant on an older technology behavior: I would have piles of books on my desk or stacked beside my bed with bookmarks in them. Sometime a small book with a bookmark would be acting as a bookmark inside a larger book. Yes, a lot of the books in those piles were books that I was reading, and just hadn’t finished. But a lot of them were part of one of my research projects, and the bookmarks were things that I wanted to be able to look at again as I moved forward with the project. Some of the projects were for school, so the books would be returned to their shelves once the essay or whatever I had to turn in was finished. Other projects were personal. I might be researching something for a story I was trying to write. Or I might be researching something for a scenario I was running for one of my gaming groups, and so on.

I do try to do a better job of limiting how many tabs are open on my computer, though improvements in browsers (sandboxing among them) has made it less likely that having all those tabs open is going to slow the computer down or cause crashes. And there are some websites (certain news sites, for instance) that I learned long ago that I need to close down as soon as I finish reading an article.

One problem with this habit is that it also means I always have a whole bunch of projects in progress at any time. Which means things don’t get finished as quickly as I like.

Which sometimes plays out here, as I will have dozens of draft blog posts ranging from a dozen or so words to hundreds that I just haven’t finished, yet.

Even when I give myself a totally arbitrary goal to post something every day for thirty days in a row, I find myself staring at a bunch of draft posts, opening one after the other, maybe adding a few words, yet somehow unable to commit and just finish one.

And it’s more than a bit frustrating. It’s also a little confusing, because finishing, and putting things away once a project is done, are things that I really enjoy. So you would think that would motivate me.

And yet…

Managing our personal technology, time, and attention

Photo of commuters on a train in the 1960s, everyone reading a newspaper with the caption: “All this technology is making us anti-social.”

“All this technology is making us anti-social.” (click to embiggen)

When I first started reading this article: A Phone Setup That Will Make You More Mindful I thought it was heading toward being a rant about how horrible technology is, making us ignore people around us and such1. I almost stopped reading it, in fact. But the screenshot early on of the home screen showing a simple landscape with a single question intrigued me. As I continued to read it, it became clear the author wasn’t anti-technology, he’s just a strong advocate for you controlling the technology, and not the other way around.

Now, before I get into my own comments on this topic, a disclaimer: my use case probably doesn’t match your use case2. I’m not suggesting that anyone use their tools the way I use mine. My talking about the tools I use and how I use them is in no way meant as an indictment of anyone who uses different tools (or none at all) or uses them differently.

I’m not rearranging my whole phone according to his recommendations after reading it4, but the article did make me think about how I let things on my phone distract me from other things I want to do—often things I meant to do on the phone itself. What I have done is cleaned up my notification settings. There were a number of apps I didn’t really want to see alerts from cluttering up my Notification Center and the Earlier Today list. It’s funny how every time I noticed those unwanted alerts before I would think, “I need to remember to go turn those off.” To be fair, the reason is usually that I would tap another alert that I did want and go read an urgent email or message. By the time I’d handled that, I would have forgotten about the annoying alerts.

Rinse and repeat.

This article has made me consider rearranging my homescreen. There are a few apps that I use many times a day that aren’t on the first screen. The app where I record and track my blood sugar readings, meals & snacks, and insulin doses, for instance. I put in on the second page because it’s color is the same another app I use multiple times, and I kept clicking on the wrong one. The article’s suggestion of having a first screen with no more than six apps that you use frequently got me thinking: is the reason that these two are confused because they are surrounded both buried among 22 other icons, many of which are only tapped a few times a week?

Right now all of the apps I have on the phone fit into only two screens. I pull that off by having a lot of apps in folders. My reason for doing this is that back when I had three to five screens worth of icons I would spend a lot of time swiping back and forth trying to find things. I figured just have two screens would cut down on that. Except I swipe back and forth between them a few times sometimes when trying to find an app.

So, I am thinking of rearranging my screen.

I’ve always had a problem with rabbit-holing. I’ll be getting ready for work, for instance, and notice that the empty tube from the middle of a used toilet paper roll is sitting on the counter. I’ll grab it and carry it out to the kitchen to drop in the recycle bin, where I might decide to grab a sip of coffee or water. I’ll pour some coffee into my much from the coffee maker and spill a little coffee on the counter, which prompts me to grab a rag, and the next thing I know I’ve wiping down the whole counter, and noticing that the stove could use a quick wipe, and say, there’s a couple of dishes in the sink that should go in the dishwasher, but…

And then ten or fifteen minutes later I’m finally heading out of the kitchen, but I forget that I was going to the bathroom and head into the bedroom to pick out clothes to wear, at which point I realize I haven’t actually showered yet. So I head toward the bathroom again.

Which eventually leads to a moment when I glance at a clock or my watch and freak out because it’s a lot later than I thought it was.

This tendency to be easily distracted did cause me to be sent for evaluation for hyperkinetic impulse disorder5 in school more than once. But each time they decided I didn’t have it6.

For now, I’ve turned off the badges on things like the Mail app that I check regularly, anyway. And greatly reduced the number of apps that show notifications.

I already have a lot of apps in folders, and for anything that I don’t check real frequently I use search to find them. I’m not quite ready to go as far as this guy: Beautility, My Ultimate iPhone Setup, but I certainly understand his reasoning!

I’m thinking of this as an extension of the project we started last year when we learned our old building was going on the market and knew moving was likely. We’ve been reducing and de-cluttering and taking long hard looks at all the stuff we have. A lot of things were gotten rid of because we seldom (if ever) use them7. So thinking about how I have my phone (and other devices) set up is probably a good next logical step.

Let’s see how this works!


Footnotes:

1. The modern equivalent of the infamous “milkman’s cheery whistle” style essay: where a pundit laments modern society in general by waxing nostalgic about one particular thing the author thought was wonderful.

2. This is a great phrase my friend Duncan introduced me to. People have different workflows, opinions, and uses for the tools they use. We can legitimately like something without being a mindless fanboy or apologist. We can just as legitimately dislike something without being a hater3. I think it’s a much better approach to think of things this way than to angrily ask, “Why would anyone use X?” And so forth.

3. However, if you only comment on someone else’s blog post to call them a fanboy, sheep, or some other disparaging term because they like a product you don’t, particularly if you include a blanket statement such as, “I don’t use products by so-and-so and never will,” you are acting in a way 100% indistinguishable from a hater.

4. Yet!

5. This was the name given to what is now commonly called ADD/ADHD back in the day. The modern name (and definition) wasn’t adopted until I was in my twenties.

6. I could get into a long and very boring discussion of standard deviations and what constitutes a symptom as opposed to a quirk in different people’s perspectives. But maybe some other day.

7. And I’m not just talking about the embarrassingly large amounts of things we found boxed up in the back of closets that had been there so long, we literally had forgotten the closet was that deep8. An example: about a year or so before Ray died, he found a silk jacket during one of his thriftstore runs with his mom. It was a beautiful dark purple and dark teal (a color combo I was really into), it was in very good shape, silk lining as well as a silk outer shell, it was a nice, light weight that would be perfect for the mildly chilly parts of our falls and springs, and it appeared to be my size. It fit me well across the shoulders and was more than roomy enough for my belly. But the sleeves were about four inches short. But it was gorgeous! And it had clearly been expensive. The label wasn’t in English, and the size was odd enough that we strongly suspected it might have been custom made made for another short, round guy, right? Anyway, other than the sleeves, it was perfect. But because of the sleeves, I almost never wore it. I wore it when a few times we went out back when Ray was alive, because it made him happy to see me in it, and I just never talked about the sleeves. Then for about 19 years after his death, the jacket lived in among our coats and jackets in the closet. Every now and then, when the weather was chilly but not actually cold, I would pull it out and put it on—and then remember the sleeves as soon as I lifted an arm. So I would take it back off and hang it up. Because Ray had bought it for me. And it was gorgeous and still in great shape and so on. During the unpacking, it (with a lot of other old jackets and coats) were hauled off to Value Village. I hope that someone who it actually fits found it and wears it and keeps warm while looking great.9

8. Though that was a thing!

9. Then there’s a complete different phenomenon: after we did the purge of the coats, one of the coats I kept was a long cloth raincoat10 that I had bought many years ago at a fancy men’s store. We had several formal functions we were going to that year, and a coat that I could wear over my suit seemed like a good idea. And it worked great and I looked good, and it was awesome. And then it spend most of the next 14-15 years hanging in that same closet. I wore it more often than the silk jacket, but I kept thinking that I should save it for appropriate occasions11. I didn’t get rid of it in the purge, I kept it. Then when the weather started turning cold and wet, I started to pull it out, but immediately had the thought, “But shouldn’t I save this for—?” Fortunately, I also immediately remembered that the whole point was that we decided only to keep coats/jackets that we actually wear. So during this, the wettest time of the year, it has worked well to keep me warm and dry. And what’s the point of owning such a coat if you don’t wear it, right?

10. It’s a microfibre cloth, and water beads on it rather than soaks in. So it really does keep you dry, but with out the crinkling and squeaking and other odd noises you get with plasticized and rubberized fabrics.

11. Whatever that means.

Confessions of a gadget addict

This is not a photo of me with my very first iPhone... it isn't, really, but...

This is not a photo of me with my very first iPhone… it isn’t, really, but…

I fully admit to being addicted to gadgets. I spend a lot of my time at home writing, reading, and researching on a Macbook Pro, but I also own one of the big Mac Pro Towers with an Apple Cinema Display for a monitor, and I own an Asuratek Ultrabook that runs Windows 7. Plus I have an iPad Pro with the Apple Smart Keyboard, upon which I do a surprising number of tasks that previously required a laptop, plus my iPhone and Apple Watch, and did I mention my Kindle? And that doesn’t even get into the more than half-dozen iPods of various models that I load up with music and rotate through the car. Plus there is a dizzying array of accessories for all of the above. The number of different types of headphones I own (even after purging a whole bunch during the move) is enough to make most people’s heads spin.

Sometimes I try to rationalize this by pointing out the my husband has more computers than I do… and more iPads, and… and… but that’s really deflecting.

Now one thing that I will say in my defense is that many of these things were not paid for at full retail. Most of the iPods, for instance, were picked up used, some of them with more than one previous owner before I got them. And, as I explained in Confessions of a penny pinching packrat, my childhood and early adulthood spent living (barely) paycheck to paycheck taught me to hang on to things. When I buy a new appliance or gadget or whatever the old one is seldom disposed of. Instead it is held onto as a backup in case the new thing breaks. Often older computers and such are passed on to friends and family who need them, and when that isn’t the case, I can frequently find away to sell them or trade them in to get a discount on something else we need.

But, I also love tools that work well, and I especially love tools that work well for particular tasks. The headphones I use for commuting, for instance, need to meet several requirements: they need to be wireless and feel comfortable and not awkward when worn with various hats and scarves and such that I need in various types of weather. They also need to be able to hold up to rain. Because of some issues with my inner ears, they can’t be in-ear. The models that meet those requirements don’t usually have fantastic sound fidelity. But I don’t necessarily want that, because I don’t want headphones to block out traffic noise, and so forth, because since I take a bus, a part of my commute involves walking on sidewalks along busy city streets. So I need to be able to hear what’s going on around me.

That means that the commute headphones aren’t ideal for other listening situations. So I have a pair of wired noise-cancelling headphones that live in my desk drawer at my office, so on those days that I need to block out conversations going on in the cubes and halls around me, I can. And also, if I’m going to listen to music while working, I’d like the quality of the sound to be a bit better than what I’m willing to settle for during my bus ride and walking, right?

Then I have a nice pair of wireless headphones to use at home for listening to music or podcasts while I’m writing or editing. And again, I prefer them to have better music quality than the commute headphones. Unfortunately, it is often the case the wireless headphone with great sound, have inferior microphones. So if I’m trying to have conversations or gaming sessions with friends online, I need a headset that has good sound and a good microphone, which winds up being a wired headset.

And then… well… so the nice bluetooth and wired headsets I mentioned in the above paragraph basically live with my laptop. So there is another set of headphones, wired, that some years ago used to be the primary for listening to music on the laptop, that have been handed-down to the desktop Mac Pro, so that when I use that machine, I can listen to my music without disturbing my husband on the other side of the computer room. And there is a pair of really nice wired noise-cancelling headphones that permanently live in the On The Go computer bag, so that when we’re at cons or whatever, I’ll have a good set on those occasions I need them…

…and then there is a small stash of some older ones that still work well enough in a pinch, and usually one or two pairs of still in box backups for the commute headphones, because when they die, they tend to completely die, and I need a backup right away, right?

It’s a little harder to explain how the primary laptop, iPad, desktop, and Windows-based laptop all fit some of my use cases but aren’t the best tool for some of my other tasks. I mean, I have the Windows laptop because occasionally I need to process a file in software that is only available on Windows. And some of my old backups were done on Windows, since I used that operating system for many years. My new laptop is, in theory, pretty water resistant, but I’m still a bit reluctant to take it outside when rain is likely. And now that we have such a nice veranda, I spend a little bit of pretty much every day out there either writing, reading, or chatting with friends. So the iPad is a better tool for that location, since it is much much much more water resistant than the laptop, right?

I also, whenever possible, I spend my lunch break at the office writing or editing my own fiction, and that happens on the iPad. Which is much tinier and easier to transport along with my lunch and stuff than the laptop.

This is a long way of saying: what works for me, works for me, but may not meet the your needs. Likewise, what works for you may not meet my specific needs at all. And it’s okay if some of us spend more of our time and resources on different things than other people.

You do you. I’ll do me. Okay?

Worry about you and other revelations for a Wednesday

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Apple announced more than one new phone yesterday, and like most years, a certain percentage of current iPhone owners are debating which one to upgrade to as our older iPhones are now more than two years old. More than one person I know is still hanging onto the same iPhone they’ve owned for three years and not sure that they will upgrade this year or wait a bit. But Apple haters all act as if all of us blindly rush out to buy the newest one every year. We don’t, but hey, if your life is so hollow that you need to make fun of other people’s choices of what goods and services to use, I guess that’s what you have to do.

But the really funny thing for me is how many of the haters are making fun of the cost of the high end Apply phone (not the shiny new iPhone 8 that the vast majority of us will buy, but the premium model that literally most of us can’t—not just because of the price, but because of manufacturing limits, but I’ll come back to that) are also comparing it to a particular Samsung Galaxy, about which others were asking just last month: Why does Samsung think you’d be willing to spend nearly $1,000 on a Galaxy Note 8?. Seriously, you can’t complain about price by comparing it to a phone that is just as expensive.

The answer to the question isn’t about either company being greedy—it’s about first the fact that some of those components simply cost more. The OLED screen currently used in the Galaxy Note 8 and that will be in the iPhone X costs at least $100 more each at wholesale than the screen used in the iPhone 8 and comparable screens on other Samsung phones that are less costly than the Galaxy Note 8. And that isn’t the only more expensive component either phone has.

But there’s another factor that a lot of people don’t get: manufacturing scale. The last few years, Apple has sold, on average, 800,000 new iPhones a day. In order to meet the demand, not only do they have to manufacture phones close to that rate, but all of the components that they buy from other companies have to be manufactured by those other companies at that rate. Samsung, currently the only source of the high-end OLED screen mentioned above, literally can’t manufacture them fast enough to meet that kind of demand. And that isn’t the only component in the premium phones like that. So part of the reason that both Samsung and Apple are charging nearly 1000 bucks for their highest-end phones is because they want most of their customers to buy the other models, the ones that don’t have components which can’t (yet) be produced at that quantity.

It's the same thing every September. Y'all concern yourself with how other people pay for their iPhones. Worry about you.

Embedding the screenshot of the quoted tweet in case the original goes away…

So, chill. You buy the phone you want, or stick with the one you have already, and don’t be a douche making remarks that are far less clever than you think they are about other people’s choices and preferences. As more than one person has observed: asshole is the failure mode of clever.


I had a couple more posts about writing ready to go up this week. One was kind of a sequel to Monday’s Confessions of a writing tool addict—good intentions paving the way, while the other was a follow up on a much older post: Trust the reader to keep up. But then on Tuesday morning I read an essay that made me want to rethink some advice that I give out all of the time, but that I suspect I don’t follow as much as I think I do. And even more importantly, it makes me want to rethink some of my assumptions. You should really go read Celcilia Tan’s essay, “Let Me Tell You” at Uncanny Magazine.

Anyway, I unscheduled my two posts. I may rewrite them and post them eventually. Or I may just scrap them and start over. Tan’s essay has got me thinking about several things.

And an old and dear acquaintance reminded me that this excellent music video exists, and that in addition to being a good song, the lyrics speak truth:

Propellerheads feat: Miss Shirley Bassey – History Repeating:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

“Oh, it’s not that bad!” and other adventures in being human

This picture of a “vintage alarm clock” was as close as I could find to the old clock on line, but this looks a bit more modern than that one.

This picture of a “vintage alarm clock” was as close as I could find to the old clock on line, but this looks a bit more modern than that one.

There are many little aspects of our move that I haven’t written about. Not that every little anecdote is worth a blog post, but we had a few discoveries/epiphanies during the course of the packing and sorting and reducing and hauling and unpacking and replacing that are at least a little amusing. For example, there’s the matter of our alarm clocks. Way, way, way back when Ray and I first moved in together, we had two alarm clocks. Since Ray’s job at the time sometimes required him to get up earlier on some days than others, while I generally tried to catch the bus at the same time every day to get to the office by 9-ish. So we each had an alarm clock on each side of the bed.

Both were digital alarm clocks with that formerly ubiquitous red LED display, though Ray’s was a large print display, because without his glasses, even if he picked up a regular alarm clock and held it so close that his nose was almost touching the display, he still couldn’t read the numbers. My alarm clock was a clock radio, and I always set it to start playing NPR about a half hour before I needed to wake up, then the alarm when I had to get out of bed. Because I was less likely to be a Grouch Monster™ when the alarm went off if I’d been eased into waking up by the radio. After Ray died, I kept both alarm clocks. For one thing, while my eyesight had never been quite as bad as Ray’s, I liked the fact that I could read the large print clock from the far side of the bedroom when I didn’t have my glasses on.

When Michael moved in with me the year after Ray died, he already owned an alarm clock. And since he also had a job where he needed to get up at different times each day for work, it made sense to have a separate clock. But we didn’t get rid of my second clock. Instead we moved the clock radio to the far side of the bedroom, which I found made it less likely that I would hit the snooze alarm a bunch of times and oversleep. Over the years, the clock radio had to be replaced a couple of times. And Michael’s clock’s display went wonky and had to be replaced, but the large print clock which had been Ray’s just kept chugging along.

Or at least, that’s what I told myself.

I don’t know how old the clock was, because Ray already owned in when we started dating in 1990. But that means it was at a minimum 27 years old this spring when Michael and I were packing. Not surprisingly, after 27+ years of use, some things didn’t work as well any longer.

  • One of the features the large print clock had which was innovative and unusual in 1990 was a battery compartment in the bottom of the clock so that if you kept fresh batteries in there, the clock wouldn’t lose time during a power outage. The clock wouldn’t actually stay lit up or sound its alarm when it was on battery back up, but you didn’t have to reset it once the power came back on. Now it is pretty standard for electronics to have a in-built mini rechargeable battery for this purpose, but back then it was unusual. The battery backup stopped working years ago. You don’t want to know how many times I changed the batteries and cleaned the contacts in the battery compartment, or shone a flashlight into it while I peered through a magnifying glass trying to fix it before I admitted to myself that the memory chip or whatever it was that the batteries powered must have failed.
  • A couple years after the battery backup stopped working, the alarm became inconsistent. You could set the alarm, and when it came time for the alarm to go off, the clock would try to sound an alarm. But sometimes all you got was a click and a single weird little chirping noise. other times the buzzer would sound, but it wasn’t very loud. Other times it chirped and chirped and chirped until you turned the alarm off. Very rarely did the buzzer just buzz loudly. But since by this time I had a clock radio that had two alarms in addition to the radio, I didn’t really need the alarm on this clock any longer. But the large print display I still had a use for.
  • More recently, the power cord had gotten twitchy. By which I mean, if you bumped the power cord, it would temporarily lose power. And because the battery backup wasn’t working any longer, that meant that basically if you sneezed in the vicinity of the clock, the display would go dark until you jiggled the cord again, and then you had this enormous blinking 12:00 on the screen. Now, I’m not saying the cord was frayed or otherwise showed any sign of the sort of wear that would make it a fire hazard, I think the iffy connection was actually inside the body of the clock on one side or the other of the rectifier (this is the part inside most electronic devices that converts the household 110-volt alternating current into the much lower voltage direct current that circuit board and chips and such use). So this didn’t represent a fire hazard, just an annoyance.
  • Cosmetically, the faux-gold coating on some parts of the plastic bezel around the display had been wearing off. The labels on some of the switches and buttons necessary to setting the time had faded to the point of being difficult to read, and there was a half-inch-long crack in one corner of the display.

When I actually type these things up, it seems really ludicrous that I hung onto the clock as long as I did, right? And it is ridiculous. But it’s not that unusual for people to let small annoyances like this build up to a ridiculous point and try to keep muddling along. How many times have you known someone in a relationship which had obviously soured or become awful over time who didn’t notice the thousands of little ways they were walking on eggshells to keep the peace?

Yeah, part of the reason I was more willing than was reasonable to overlook the growing list of problems with this clock is because it had belonged to Ray. And I am a sentimental fool, so of course I don’t want to get rid of something that had any fond memories attached. And yes, the alarm clock did have fond memories associated with it. Not to get too graphic, but it was the only light on in the room the first time we made love, after all. But the other part was the human tendency to make-do with something because it seems easier to keep the thing we’re familiar with than to replace it.

As it was, the clock radio, though many years newer than the large print clock, was also beginning to develop some issues, and the alarm clock on Michael’s side of the bed had a crack in the display that made it difficult to read from some angles. And so Michael bought a brand new bedroom clock for the new house within a day or two of the move. And he found a single clock that replaced the functions we had actually been using on the three old ones. The main display shows time, day, date, and the temperature in the room. It has a radio, multiple alarms, alarms you can specify for different days of the week, and it has an adjustable, focusable laser display that projects the time on the ceiling or a wall in very large print so I can read it in the dark (and it doesn’t have to be that dark, just dim in the room) from across the room without my glasses.

It’s a very big improvement, it wasn’t expensive, and one little clock takes up a lot less space than the three old things we had before.

Change doesn’t have to be bad!

We’re living in the future, but a lot of people don’t get it

An magazine ad from 1968: Western Electric is crossing a telephone with a TV set.  “What you'll use is called, simply enough, a Picturephone set. Someday it will let you see who you are talking to, and let them see you.”

An magazine ad from 1968: Western Electric is crossing a telephone with a TV set.
“What you’ll use is called, simply enough, a Picturephone set. Someday it will let you see who you are talking to, and let them see you.”

Some years ago I was attending a meeting of the committee that ran one of the local science fiction conventions. I had just joined the staff, and it was my first full meeting. One of the topics debated that day was a proposal that the committee obtain an email address that several committee members could check, because people kept asking why they didn’t have an email address. The only means that were available to the public (and thus people who might want to attend the convention) for contacting the organization was to either mail a physical letter to the club’s post office box, or to leave a voice mail message via a phone number that didn’t actually ring a phone. A system that was troublesome because if you didn’t check the voice mail box often enough, it would fill up with messages and no one could leave a new message.

During the debate, one person admitted that he had voted “no” each previous time the question had come up, but he had recently realized that it was as inconvenient for him and his friends that he didn’t have an email address of his own, as it had been inconvenient for he and his family that his elderly great-aunt refused to get a telephone. He wasn’t the only member of the committee to admit that they had been resisting adopting that “new technology.”

And this was a bunch of sci fi nerds.

Admittedly, it was sci fi nerds in the 1980s. Personal computers were still complicated gadgets that cost more than a car (the first IBM PC/XT had 128kilobytes of RAM and cost $5000, that’s the equivalent of $12,000 in 2017) and often had parts you had to solder together yourself. But my point is that even people who think they are forward thinking and tech savvy often have big blind spots about technology.

Such as the current dismay I keep seeing expressed online because so many politicians on both sides of the aisle have been talking about rural broadband. “Is this really a pressing need?” As a matter of fact, yes. It is nearly impossible in the modern era to apply for a job if you don’t have access not just to email, but a robust enough internet connection to fill out the often very-poorly scripted online applications. When my husband and I were recently looking for a new place to live, not only were the only reliable places to find available properties online, but often the only way to inquire about a property was to fill out a web form. Even after that point, we had to each fill out applications for background checks via a different website and system than we’d used to contact the property manager.

(click to embiggen)

The primary means to access services such as unemployment insurance, disability benefits, and so forth, is over the web. And that means needing more than a basic internet connection, you have to have a decent amount of bandwidth, or things time out. When new medical equipment is handed out, they doctor’s offices don’t have the time to show you how to use it, they give you a web address to access videos online. That’s how I learned to properly inject myself with insulin (including how to troubleshoot the injection pin and so on): they sent me to a webpage to watch the videos and read the warnings and disclaimers myself.

Internet access, particularly high speed/high bandwidth access, is no longer a luxury. Society, both businesses and institutions, have embraced the new technologies. Just as phones ceased being a luxury decades ago, then cellphones ceased being a luxury about a decade ago, and now smart phones have also crossed that line. For a number of people, particularly poor people, their smartphone is their only reliable way of accessing the services they need to get and keep their jobs, to take care of their kids’ needs, and so on.

Douglas Adams observed in an article in 1999:

“I’ve come up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technologies:
1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
2. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
3. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.”

Which is accurate, but also just a bit dated. Technology doesn’t just move forward, but the rate at which things change accelerates. Adams’s rules could use a couple of additions. For instance, we might add “Any new and exciting thing creating jobs when you’re in your 20s is a dying, obsolete industry by the time you turn 40.”

And there are the people who don’t understand how mass production and the commodification of products makes things that once were terribly expensive available for a fraction of the cost. This comes up a lot in relation to iPhones, in particular. In certain circles it is popular to hold up the ownership of an iPhone by someone who is struggling financially as proof that the person is only struggling because of bad priorities. This doesn’t take into account the many, many ways that someone can obtain slightly older versions of currently expensive gadgets extremely cheaply. We’ve already established that have a phone, specifically a mobile phone, has become a necessity in our modern society. Getting a refurbished unit of some previous year’s model or a non-refurbished unit of a model from a couple of years ago for free or close to it as part of a cell phone contract is quite common. And then there are various sales and special offers one can find.

That doesn’t even get into the hand-me-down process. Lots of people, when they upgrade a device such as a phone or tablet or laptop, rather than try to sell it somewhere, wipe their data and give the device to a friend or relative who can’t afford a new device themselves.

Luxuries aren’t what some people think they are. Sadly, the people least likely to understand this also don’t realize that being able to look with condescension on others for having or wanting nice things is a form of luxury on its own.

%d bloggers like this: