Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Linked In

I'm making a prediction right now. Eventually, we're going to see smart phones replaced by smart watches. I'm actually surprised it hasn't happened already. I imagine it would look something like this:


I had a thought once that cell phones had successfully reduced an entire generation of people back to pocket watches. Wristwatches are a logical progression because it doesn't make sense to have to dig around in your pocket to tell the time. People wanna just look somewhere and know. That's why there's digital clocks on stoves, microwaves, coffee pots, computers and VCRS. And because that's not enough I also have an alarm clock, a clock on my wall and a wrist watch.

Let me be clear. I KNOW what time it is.

But I think the smart-watch issue is even more relevant, because if people love to do one think, they love to be on the Internet. And why shouldn't they? I've said it before and I'll say it again (right now, actually): the Internet is the most useful human invention since penicillin. Or at least the most revolutionary, because it was a game-changer in a way that not television, not the airplane, not the postal service and not even the telephone were. Alright, maybe the last two because of their basis in communication, but if you want to make that comparison, then the telephone and the postal service together are the sun and the Internet is Betelgeuse.

Note: The speck you can't see is the sun.

You can't compete with the Internet. It's more like the Industrial Revolution than a device. Type anything into Google and you'll find it. Any question on your mind or need you have. Just took a random walk through your neighborhood and want to see how many miles you went? There's a site for that. Lost your guitar tuner? Google will find one in 1/1,000,000 of a fraction of a second. For free. And that's on top of the insanely useful online library/encyclopedia that is Wikipedia and the virtual high school reunion that is Facebook, and never-ending entertainment machines like StumbleUpon and Youtube and Reddit. All free, all constantly updating. And the list goes on.

So people want to be linked in. All the time. In class, at work, at home, on a walk through the woods on a beautiful day, because "you've created such a high bar of stimulus that nothing competes." - Louis C.K. The only problem is it ties your hands up. You have to put something down to pull your smart phone out of your pocket, whether it's a sandwich, a baby or a video game controller. So put it on your wrist like you're in Fallout 3.

Only smaller.

I think the ultimate goal here is to be linked in permanently, whether we want to be or not. We're extremely social creatures, and for good reason. Without wanting and needing to be social, we never could have progressed the way we did as a species. Ray Kurzweil predicts that we will eventually merge with our technology through the use of nanobots, becoming something more than the human species that we are now (though I'm sure this is a crazy over-simplification of what he actually said). I remember reading an interview of his a few years ago where he stated that man has always been merging with his own technology, ever since we first picked up sticks and rocks and used them as tools. Now, when I see people glued to their iPhones, linked into this hivemind of the Internet, streaming information and collective experiences into their brains, I have to think he's right.

It also brings to mind "The Last Question", a short story by Isaac Asimov where (spoiler) through the ability to combine the collective consciousness of the species, the human race eventually becomes God and reverses the entropy of the universe by creating the universe anew. This to me says two things: 1: Life, in so many ways, imitates science fiction (or science fiction writers are especially prolific in their predictions of technological advancement) and 2: People sitting on toilets with smart phones playing Angry Birds and checking their Twitter are the first step in a long journey to becoming God.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Sleep Problems

I've always had a hard time falling asleep.
As a child with a bedtime, I think it's safe to say I spent an hour of every day of my life lying awake in bed, daydreaming in the dark, talking to myself and just generally not falling asleep. As a teenager I stopped trying all together, and stayed up reading or on the computer long after it was sensible for my 6 o'clock high school wake-up schedule. I just don't like to lie awake in bed. It's boring and it's tedious, and my brain is an alright guy but he's really chatty and can be really negative. So unless I'm using him to complete a specific task or think about things that matter to me, I'd rather not be alone with him.

Through college and into my early adulthood I've continued to stay up late and avoid the dark isolation of trying to fall asleep, but recently things have changed. It used to be that I could stay up until 4 in the morning and wake up at 10 a.m. and feel fine, but now, maybe because I'm getting older, the trick has been working less and less. If I stay up until 4 a.m. I sleep until 2 in the afternoon, and that gets old after a few weeks of seeing the sun set only a few hours after you wake up. So, against my better judgment and years of experience, I've been trying to fall asleep at a somewhat decent time these past few nights. And the shit is starting up again.
The other night, Lindsay and I went to bed at about quarter after 1 in the morning, planning to fall asleep to Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.

Hell yes.

Anyways, as the credits rolled two hours later and I found myself wide awake, I had two choices. I could get up, get on my computer and Stumble until my eyes burned enough that I genuinely wanted to close them, or I could lay in the darkness and hope that, just maybe, my brain would be merciful enough to leave me alone.

The thing about lying awake at night is that your brain latches on to one particular thought and won't shut up about it. "Let's think about this thing until you go CRAZY," is what your brain says. On this particular night, I found myself thinking, of all things, about a wooden box I built in high school and is currently holding all of the Animorphs books I own at my parents' house. It was for a Pandora's Box project for my mythology class, and it looks like this:

So anyways, I was thinking about this box, and about how it was one of the few substantial things I've ever made from scratch, and about how easy it was and how I could do it again if I ever needed a box for anything.

But then I was like... wait, how did I make that box again?
And my brain was like LET'S FIGURE IT OUT!

Because here's the problem: I remembered distinctly that I walked straight into the store, bought the wood, came home, and nailed that damn box together. It was just that simple. I didn't measure, and I didn't remember cutting anything. What I did remember was buying wood that looked like this:

But wait, if that was what I bought, how could I have possibly made the box? Because by nailing these parts together there would always be the same basic flaw in design. There are variations of this flaw, but really you can only have two basic outcomes with these materials.

And my brain went over these two options over and over and OVER again, even though I was like: "Please stop. This is stupid. Let's think about something else."
And I was like, "Next time I'm home I will look at the box and everything will make sense again, I promise."
And I was like "That is ridiculous. We will not be doing that."

To appease my brain I attempted to reach a compromise. An answer that, while not technically correct, could at least logically explain how a box could conceivably be constructed from these materials. It would be something like this:

And my brain was like LOL NOPE. THAT WASN'T IT. KEEP TRYING.

So I laid there, alternating between the only two possible outcomes from my PROBLEMS pictures above, for a good solid half an hour. It was awful and frustrating and full of irrational thoughts like "What if I need a box? I'll never be able to build a box again! I've forgotten how!" Again I tried to trick my brain, arguing that perhaps I had forgotten steps in the process of making the box. Maybe the box did, in fact, jut out unevenly like in the first example. Maybe I had made measurements to account for the extra inch hanging over the top like in the second example.

And then it hit me.
I HAD cut the wood.

I hadn't bought four long pieces and two square end pieces. I bought six long pieces and did this:

And so the mystery was solved! There was much rejoicing.

Then my brain was like, "Wow, you were right. That was a stupid thing to spend so much time on. You should write a blog entry about this because it was so silly."
And I was like, "Yeah, maybe."
And my brain was like, "But how would you explain it? You would have to draw a lot of pictures. I wonder what they would look like..."

I didn't fall asleep until 5 a.m.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

We Have No Rights

George Carlin used to have a routine about how, contrary to popular belief, we don't actually have any rights. You know, like the right to free speech, due process, trial by jury, and the right to be absolved from cruel and unusual punishment. We don't have these rights, Carlin said, because at any moment they can be taken away from us. To illuminate this point he referenced the interment of Japanese-Americans in 1942, where over 110,000 American citizens were jailed without due process or any rights at all except, as Carlin said, "Right this way! Into the internment camp."

And to me, Carlin is spot on with this assessment of rights in America, or anywhere else for that matter. Rights are privileges, he says, and temporary at that, because nothing is a right if it can be taken away. They're certainly not God-given rights. They're ideas, invented by humans, and which can be erased by humans. And you don't have to go back to 1942 to see action like this in the United States.

I just finished a book called Zeitoun (pronounced Zay-toon) which centered on the life of a man named Abdulrahman Zeitoun, his wife Kathy and his four children in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

To make a long story short, Zeitoun was a carpenter, painter and business owner in New Orleans when the hurricane hit in 2005. Because he had so many responsibilities to various properties in the city, he stayed behind to weather the storm while his wife and children fled to family and friends elsewhere in the country. He had no idea how bad the storm would be, and in the aftermath he spent his time not repairing properties but saving people from their flooded homes (the water reached the second story windows of most houses, even on the north side of the city where he lived) and feeding dogs left to die by their owners.

After about a week of rescue work, Zeitoun and three companions were arrested in a house that Zeitoun himself owned, were not read their rights, were not charged with a crime, and were taken to a Greyhound bus station where an enormous makeshift jail had been erected. Without charges he was handcuffed, strip-searched, probed and imprisoned by heavily armed guards with no discernible identities or affiliations to a particular law enforcement agency. He was kept for days at the Greyhound station, and then transported to a maximum security prison. All in all he served almost a full month without a phone call, a hearing or bail. The companions arrested with him were held at longest for eight months, and all charges were eventually dropped.

It was so unbelievable to read this about the United States in 2005, that in a time of catastrophe while people were struggling to escape the roofs of their houses and find clean water, so much effort was being put into arresting and detaining innocent civilians. In another account, one that received media attention in New Orleans at the time, a 73 year-old-woman was wrongly-arrested for looting when she was carrying a package of sausage from her car to her hotel room. She was incarcerated in a maximum security prison for over two weeks. In another incident, a woman working at the Greyhound prison compound threatened a reporter to leave the premises or else she would "throw him in a cage."

And I'm reading this book in the midst of news that Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has plans to implement policies that could dissolve local governments and unseat elected officials under the direction of a single, unelected authority figure or board of directors.

And in Wisconsin the governor was attempting to eliminate the right of union bargaining in order, I can only guess, to further oppress the working class.

And the Patriot Act was extended at the end of February and the crazy power granted to authority figures under that act is still in effect.

And when the American government observes a person's right not to be tortured or detained indefinitely without trial, they simply move those operations to other countries.

And racial profiling of Mexican Americans is now protocol in Arizona, shifting the burden of proof off of the state and on to the individual, who must now make excuses for his or her right to live in a country they are a legal citizen of.

And I just realized earlier this week that I watch what I say on the phone because, in my heart, I don't 100% believe that there's absolutely no chance someone is listening.

Because we have no rights.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

News and Human Rights 8: Now Illegal to be Mexican in Ariz.

In a shocking and unconstitutional abuse of authority exercised earlier this week, it is now officially illegal to be a Mexican-American in the state of Arizona. This turn of events came as a surprise to many, due to the grossly racist nature of the law in the supposedly progressive 21st century, but others claim the decision was only a matter of time. These more pessimistic views are espoused by citizens who cite other racially-based legal decisions that have come to pass in the state within the last year.

Some claim that the law of early 2010, which required Mexican-Americans to carry proof of citizenship at all times, and then the banning of a Mexican-American Studies class at a high school earlier this month, began the slippery slope that led to the outlawing of these citizens all together.

In the controversial decision to end the Mexican-American Studies course, Ariz. school's chief John Huppenthal cited (among more flagrantly racist and laughably inadequate reasons) a need to focus on "the basics" in order to improve Tucson test scores. It can be assumed that "the basics" include being white, and that white people are usually right and do good things. Especially in our nation's history.

Sources report that, in conjunction with a Republican initiative to reopen the 14th constitutional amendment defining citizenship, that the Ariz. government may currently be in the works to outlaw citizens with African, Asian, Latino, Native American and all other non-Anglo Saxon, Christian heritage.

A government insider claims homosexuals may also be on their way out of Ariz. if proper legal precedents are created through the marginalization of other, more easily recognizable minority groups.

"Jews too. Don't forget Jews. I just sort of hate everybody," said an Ariz. government official.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Ninja Stole My Bike

Somebody stole my bike a few nights ago.
Maybe while I was in the house.
Bitch move, bike thief.
I use that bike to get to work, and I need to work because I want to have money without being a total asshole who steals bikes off of porches even though they're chained up, and stealing the bike requires busting out not one but TWO wood panels from the railing.
Two huge bummers about this, besides losing my primary mode of work-related transportation:
1. I've had this bike since I was like 11. And it was a good bike, too. It had all ten speeds (even though I only used 3 and 4) and it looked pretty cool. It was white and blue and just sort of a good looking bike, not stupid and small like a BMX or dumb and curvy like a hipster bike.
2. I don't know the brand name of my bike! Shame on me as a bike owner, I guess. I just never took the time to learn it's name, so when I called the cops to file my one-in-a-million-chance-this-is-going-to-work-anyways police report, they were like "What kind of bike was it," and I was like "I don't know," and they were like, "Well this conversation is pretty much finished then, isn't it?"

What really irks me is, in this day and age, I feel like a bike is probably one of the worst things you could ever steal from someone. Like, really, a totally uncalled for bullshit move.
Not only is my bike good for me and good for the environment, I NEED THAT BIKE TO GET PLACES. Two and a half miles is a big difference on foot as opposed to on a bike. Like a half hour difference. So what we have here is a person poor enough to steal a bike hurting the livelihood of a person who's poor enough to actually rely on a bike to get somewhere. This kind of poor-eat-poor attitude is responsible for so much demoralizing in the lower-class of our society, and I would venture a guess that similar circumstances result in the creation of criminals. I mean, why would I bother to go buy another bike? So it can get stolen again? Why not just steal one, if that's the rules my neighbors are choosing to play by?

Oh man, you are just the worst kind of person.

Anyways, I'm putting out a hit on this douche bag, and I'm offering a reward of one incredibly enthusiastic high five to anyone who returns my bike and/or punches the thief in the mouth.
I have reason to believe he looks something like this: