new grammar

No matter how hard I try, I cannot understand Instagram or why anyone would use it. Why do you want to make your photos look worse? Just, why?

This past winter, during an especially large snowfall, my Facebook and Twitter streams became inundated with grainy photos that shared a similarity beyond depicting massive amounts of snow: many of them appeared to have been taken on cheap Polaroid or perhaps a film cameras 60 years prior.

The ubiquity of services like Instagram and my extreme aversion to claptrap like that really reinforces my severe disconnection from how most people perceive the world, and what they value.

What is interesting to me is that many of those producing faux-vintage photos are too young to ever have taken any photo with a poor-quality analog camera, nor have they ever waited the few minutes for a Polaroid photo to develop.

Baudrillard would love this – the simulation becoming the meaning; the symbol detached and representing only itself.

8 hate

I think the real dichotomy of computer users’ opinions on Windows 8 is that if you need to get real work done, you hate Windows 8, and if you like shiny playtoys and only need to click on Facebook links and type “LOL” every few minutes, you will probably like Windows 8.

What bothers me is that in the future it appears there will be no OS for expert users – even the Linux distributions are all moving to terrible, playtime UIs that make real work impossible.

What will expert and professional computer users do in the future?

Sites

If I were launching a meatspace business – not involved directly in any way with selling anything tech-related at all – you know what the first thing I’d do is?

I’d set up a website for it. It’s the best way to advertise, and it would help you get your most aware, most wealthy customers.  Apparently, most businesses are run by blundering idiots.

No matter the business, the first place people are going to go for more information is their favorite search engine… and when they search for you they better find your website. This is mostly true at any age, but it’s 100% true of your future clients and customers under say, 40.

Exactly. If you don’t have a website now and you run any sort of business, WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU?

I still go to a few businesses that have no sites, but I generally don’t even consider using an establishment with no web presence anymore unless there is no other alternative or they are truly excellent (not many of those). Hell, these days I even schedule my car to be serviced on-line.

Switching

This reminds me why I switched from Ubuntu.

The Ubuntu Forums were once great – excellent community with useful, non-condescending advice. Without those forums, it’s unlikely I would’ve stuck with Ubuntu for five years as my main desktop OS.

Now that is being further destroyed – moving all the tutorials, tips and tricks into a wiki makes it impersonal, not centralized and loses the community feel.

It seems as companies attempt to grow, they nearly always destroy everything that makes them worth a damn.

On our server, I still use an Ubuntu-derived binary-compatible distribution, but next time I update it, I won’t even do that as the removal of the most useful section of the Ubuntu forums has already made it noticeably harder to support.

I just updated the server recently and wasn’t able to find much useful on the forums any longer nor on any of the crappy new wiki pages. Too bad, as the forums were one of the main reasons to use Ubuntu or its derivations in the first place — you knew you could always get useful advice and tips.

 

Let’s not get physical

I liked this post, but have to quibble with this part a bit.

She never even clicked on the link. But when I gave her back the slide album she hadn’t looked through in 30 years she could barely contain her joy.

The power of physical objects in a nutshell.

I’d change it to read, “The power of physical objects to old people in a nutshell.”

When someone gives me something heavy and non-searchable that could’ve been digital, I get annoyed. At work people insist on handing me physical documents that I know exist in digital format. Most of the time I say, “Can you please put that on the file share? I don’t need any more paper.”

Maybe in 40 years when the big new thing is neural interfaces, I’ll sound like these old people who want everything to be physical, even when it’s senseless. But please. Don’t give me a physical book. In most cases, don’t print out anything for me. I’ve got enough shit to carry around already.

KW

Those who denigrate Kwanzaa as being a made-up holiday – why?

Do they not realize that all the other winter season holidays are just as socially constructed? That in fact all holidays are socially constructed?

Debating over whose holiday is real is like debating who has the most real imaginary friend.

Not that holidays don’t have value. They do. I really like Christmas, despite being in no way Christian.

Holidays, like most human endeavors, are what you make them, not what some half-known history constrains them to being.

cheering death

I don’t understand people who cheer on another’s death. Even when Osama bin Laden was killed, I didn’t feel happiness or elation. It was just sad – not because I have any sympathy for bin Laden, but because such things have to happen at all in our world. To be clear, given the chance I would’ve shot him myself, though it would’ve given me neither joy nor sense of fulfillment. It’s just a grimly necessary task, the putting down of a rabid dog.

Even now, all the celebratory photos following bin Laden’s death stick in my mind. I can understand the emotion a bit, I think, but it just seems untoward and unwarranted. What does bin Laden being dead gain you? What departed family member does it return to life? How does it make the world better, rather than just making us all a little more into monsters of necessity?

Osama bin Laden imprisoned would’ve become a living martyr, an icon to rally the jihadi aspirants. Killing him was the right decision – one of the few times I agree with America’s wanton dispensation of non-judicial execution. And no, I am not in favor of the death penalty even in regular jurisprudence.

But being ecstatic and celebrating like your favorite football team just swept the playoffs? Not for me.

I was also thinking today about all the military funerals I’ve been to. I doubt the few who read this blog have ever attended one, and if you do be prepared for the “Last Roll Call.” I am not easily emotionally affected by most things, but the roll call is absolutely terrible in its finality though at the same time it also has a dreadful beauty like trinitite. Knowing the roll call is coming up at a military funeral is one of the few times I recall experiencing a feeling of physical distress from words alone.

I will never do last roll call justice by describing it. It’s like trying to re-create the sun in a toaster oven. But it’s usually near the end of the funeral. Typically, the company commander or another member of the unit stands up and calls the deceased name’s once, as if for reporting for formation.

Of course there is no answer. Of course.

Then the speaker calls the name again.

No answer. Silence, terrible silence.

By this time, people are usually sobbing; faces are hidden in hands and limbs are slack as the air in the room is suddenly far too heavy.

I cannot capture in words how incalculably clearly this method of honoring the dead emphasizes their absence, like seeing for the first time a hole ripped into reality through which some Lovecraftian void has spilled.

Then a third time, and thankfully the last time, the speaker enunciates the name.

One last nothing of an answer, that void in the world giving forth no response, assenting to death forever with its frightful silence.

Never in life have I seen so many people in tears, people who I know did not even like the soldier whose funeral they were attending, and those who were present only to be ushers or to assist – all eyes damp, downcast. And the family of the fallen is always by this time bawling in great hitching wails.

No, I do not recommend military funerals or last roll call. It’s not something one forgets.

Thinking about those funerals, and thinking about bin Laden, I realize that every death is a tragedy. Every person we kill had people who loved him or her – rightly or wrongly, but it’s often so very hard to choose who we love – and every person was a kid once who dreamed the same dreams of success as nearly anyone who has ever lived on this planet.

Killing – even justified killing – cheapens us and rips another hole in the world. I’ve seen that void, seen its reality, at more military funerals than I care to recall. I can’t forget it, and I wish more people would somehow feel that emptiness before they so gleefully cheer on death, who neither needs cheering or even acknowledgement to find us all eventually.

Paper over it

Reading this really well-done article about the newspaper strike of 1962-1963, and it struck me how much more difficult and expensive getting anywhere in life has become.

The Times newsroom, on West 43rd Street, was a bustling, self-contained universe. The managing editor, Turner Cat­ledge, would sometimes stand outside his office with binoculars, scanning the immense workspace. The city editor used a loudspeaker to summon dozens of clean-cut reporters—many with college degrees!—to a breaking story.

Now, if you don’t have a degree from an Ivy you stand very little chance of getting a job at the New York Times or any other major newspaper for that matter.

Not sure why this is. Risk aversion? Surely the best journalists don’t come from Ivies only.

I did photojournalism for five years. I know a little about it. From what I’ve seen, I’m a better writer than many of those Ivy League-educated standard issue journalists and I have no degree in anything.

I don’t have any real idea why the entry-level requirements in so many fields are so senselessly high now. I’ve often seen receptionist jobs that require a bachelor’s degree, and even a few that request a master’s.

No idea why on any of this.

Burglar

Ah, someone else from my benighted past!

A burglar? Never saw him as a burglar. Maybe a rapist, as he was très creepy, but not a burglar.

And found another one.

This guy was a terrible, terrible bully. I beat the absolute crap out of him on the playground one day after he pushed me a little too far. I made him eat dirt. Another day in the principal’s office – nothing unusual there.

Ah, the memories.

And another! Wow. The last time I saw this dude, he was like five years old.

I grew up in a classy place, yes?