I turn to my computer

17 02 2017

Bought it, and a router.

Of course, I spend an hour (or so. . . ) looking at router reviews, settled on two or three (of the cheaper ones), checked reviews, then said What the hell and went with the mid-priced one. Again, I’m sure it’ll be fine.

Part of the issue is just making my way through the completely different kinds of reviews. The variety makes sense, really: a technophile will look focus features x, y, and z, while an end-user like me, who just wants something reliable, will likely focus on p, q, and r. Still, reading the techie reviews can at least clue me in the importance of, say, x, and so I’ll factor that into my considerations as well.

There is no method to my shopping anxiety. I look top-ten lists, check various tech mags, and toggle back-and-forth between those and Amazon reviews (some of which are themselves quite tech-informed). I’ll then pull up this product and that, compare the specs, the prices, then maybe check out a few more products, check more reviews. I’ll twist myself around in a self-made tornado of information before I say, Paugh, enough.

I am, after all, only buying a computer, not a spouse.

As for the experts, I might concede their criticisms of while nonetheless concluding that it doesn’t really matter.

I’ve learned this lesson the hard way. Many years ago, when my little workhorse HP printer broke down (after a number of jerry-rigged fixes that kept it chugging along) and I was casting about for a new printer, I went with a highly-tech-rated Epson.

I didn’t love it. The features the reviewer concentrated on were not particularly the ones which mattered to me—something I realized only after I unboxed the thing. I still have it, but it’s basically stowed out of the way and hauled out only when I need to scan something.

For my day-to-day printing, I went with another boxy little workhorse, a Brother laser-printer. It’s basic—black-and-white, no scanning—but that sucker prints page after page after page of text; given that I do almost all of my printing in draft mode, the print cartridge can last for years.

So, are my new purchases what a technophile would buy? Hell no. I can appreciate their insights while recognizing that, when it comes to computers, I am pretty goddamned basic. And I’m all right with that.

Hanging on the telephone

19 03 2015

My phone is dying.

This is, of course, bullshit: I have an old landline that, were I to plug it into a working outlet, would work. It doesn’t do as much as cellphone can—it only sends and receives calls—but how did “better” tech come to mean “more fragile” tech?

Bullshit, I say. Bullshit!

Yet here I am, with an old, dying flip phone (the battery isn’t holding a charge), so I’m looking at new (-to-me) phones, and wondering what is the cheapest plan I can get.

I did look into getting a smartphone a coupla’ years ago, when my old plan expired, but the monthly cost would have been more than double what I was already (over) paying. I’m thinkin’ that if I can an old/refurbished phone—hey, even an old smartphone would be a leap in tech from what I’ve got—I can simultaneously avoid an overpriced plan: after all, the phone companies offer you a free/cheap new (otherwise crazy expensive) phone in exchange for a ruinous calling/data plan; get a cheap phone, get a cheap plan?

On the advice of friends, I’m looking at T-Mobile: they offer a 50 buck/month plan, plus the 12 bucks I’d pay for a used Samsung Galaxy S4. Verizon (which is what I currently have) is supposed to have great national coverage, but jeez, I only leave the state every coupla’ years, so why pay $70-80/month?

Maybe my old phone will rally—it’s faltered before, only to rebound—and I can hold off on spending more money on a tech which I rely upon and resent in about equal measure.

But if not, man, time to pony up.

Now make some dollars

9 03 2015

apple watch header


Call me

30 12 2013

See, there are some benefits to resisting every shiny (expensive) new toy:

New York City resident Kevin Cook was mugged at gunpoint in Central Park on Saturday, but when the thief stole Cook’s phone, he was so upset to find that it was an old flip phone that he gave it back, the New York Post reported.

“Once he saw my phone, he looked at it like, ‘What the f–k is this?’ and gave it back to me,” Cook told the paper. He described the phone in question as “like a 3-year-old generation Windows phone.”

Do I have a flip phone? Oh yes, I do.

She blinded me with science

14 12 2013

Quick note/plea: I’m putting together a proposal to teach another 300 general education course (as is the bioethics class), tentatively and excitingly called “Technology & Society”.

I’ve begun putting together a web page to serve as a resource for my would-be students at my course blog; as I am just getting started with this, the page is a bit thin on content. I’m not exactly sure how I’ll wrassle the various possibilities into a (semi-) coherent course, so I’ll be tossing up  links to as wide a variety of sites as possible.

Why do this? As the course will require a couple of honest-to-pete research papers, and as this is the first time many of the students will be writing h2p research papers, I’d like to give them as much of a boost as possible to get going.This isn’t meant to serve as a substitute for their own research, but rather, as leads.

(For comparison’s sake, you could look at the Bioethics articles and Bioethics sites & docs pages.)

Anyway, any help you could offer (in the comments, or via email—absurdist [at] gmx [dot] com) would be greatly appreciated!

Angels in the architecture

16 07 2013

This is not a “why I am not a creationist” piece. Oh no. Even though I’m not.

This is a hit on a “why I am a creationist” piece.

Virginia Heffernan, who can be an engaging writer, has apparently decided to disengage from thinking. In a widely commentedupon piece for Yahoo, the tech and culture writer outed herself as a creationist. It is a spectacularly bad piece of . . . well, I guess it’s a species of argumentation, but as she kinds of flits and floats from the pretty to the happy and fleetly flees from sweet reason, it might be best to consider this a kind of (bad) performance art.

My brief with her is less about the God-ish conclusion than that flitting and floating: she rejects science because its boring and sad and aren’t stories about God sooooo much better?

You think I’m exaggerating? I am not. To wit:

I assume that other people love science and technology, since the fields are often lumped together, but I rarely meet people like that. Technology people are trippy; our minds are blown by the romance of telecom. At the same time, the people I know who consider themselves scientists by nature seem to be super-skeptical types who can be counted on to denigrate religion, fear climate change and think most people—most Americans—are dopey sheep who believe in angels and know nothing about all the gross carbon they trail, like “Pig-Pen.”

I like most people. I don’t fear environmental apocalypse. And I don’t hate religion. Those scientists no doubt see me as a dopey sheep who believes in angels and is carbon-ignorant. I have to say that they may be right.


Later she mentions that she’s just not moved by the Big Bang or evolution, and that evo-psych is sketchy science (which it is) this must mean all of science is sketchy (which it is not).

And then this stirring conclusion:

All the while, the first books of the Bible are still hanging around. I guess I don’t “believe” that the world was created in a few days, but what do I know? Seems as plausible (to me) as theoretical astrophysics, and it’s certainly a livelier tale. As “Life of Pi” author Yann Martel once put it, summarizing his page-turner novel: “1) Life is a story. 2) You can choose your story. 3) A story with God is the better story.”

(Would it be fair to mention at this point that I hated Life of Pi? Too beside-the-point?)

To summarize, she likes technology—because it’s trippy—but she doesn’t like knowing the hows and whys technology actually works, i.e., the science.

This would be fine—after all, there are all kinds of things I like without necessarily being interested in how and why they came to be—were it not for the fact that she’s a technology writer.

Perhaps she’s a closet Juggalo, or maybe she thought Bill O’Reilly waxed profound on the movement of tides, or maybe she just ate a shitload of shrooms and floated down to her keyboard, but I’d be very—excuse me, super-skeptical of the views of a tech writer who apparently thinks angels make iPhones.


I have to admit, I was more amused by her piece than anything, and her Twitter exchange with Carl Zimmer left me gasping; to the extent I can make out any kind of coherent line at all, it seems to be “I like stories more than theories—so there!”

As someone who likes both stories and theories—yes, Virginia, we can have both—however, I hate her feeding into the Two Cultures divide, not least because dopey angel-mongering tends to diminish even further the humanities.

I am a science enthusiast, but I am also a critic of the some of the more imperial epistemological claims by some scientists (what often gets branded as “scientism“). To note that the methods of science (methodological naturalism, nomological-deductivism—take yer pick) and knowledge produced from those methods are bounded is often taken as an attack on science itself.

And, to be fair, sometimes—as in the Storified Twitter spat, when Heffernan (big fat honking sigh) pulls Foucault out her nose to fling at Zimmer—it is.

But it ain’t necessarily so. It is simply the observation that science is one kind of practice, that it hasn’t escaped the conditionality and history of practice into some kind of absolute beyond.

Now, there’s a lot more behind that observation that I’m willing to go into at this late hour, so allow me to skip ahead to my ire at Heffernan: her dipshit argument makes it harder for those of us who’d prefer our critiques both dip- and shit-free.

So, thanks Virginia, thanks for stuffing your face with shrooms or replacing your neurons with helium or whatever the hell it was that lead you to declare the moon is made of cheese.

But next time, if there is a next time, Just Say No.

Hey, you’ve got to hide yourself away

12 05 2012

Is it time for another anti-Facebook rant?

(Well, okay, not really an anti-Facebook rant so much as an anti-YOU-MUST-BE-ON-FACEBOOK!!!! rant. And if it’s not time, I don’t care, because it is time.)


Farhad Manjoo loves him some social media. He loves Google and Apple and Facebook and smart phones and probably Twitter and Linked-In and implanted RFID tags which will “let” everybody know where everybody is and what they are doing at all times.

(Well, okay, probably not, but this is rant so I get to lie exaggerate for literary purposes. And, seriously, it took him until May 1 to ask Is it Time to Stop Trusting Google?)

Manjoo and Emily Yoffe have been tag-teaming on online etiquette for awhile in audios for Slate, and their most recent venture has them pondering whether it is possible to opt out without being a weirdo?

Yoffe cautiously suggests that, perhaps, for the young ‘uns, it might seem a little weird. It’s fine, but it’s going to be odd. Still, for those over 35, say (the age of the letter writer to the manners-duo), I really don’t think we’ve gotten to the point where if you don’t have a Facebook page, you’re somehow signaling you’re socially inept.

At which point Manjoo throws his pom-poms into the ring and starts yelling Give me an F! Give an A! Give me a CEB! . . .

Let me first address what I said before. That question came up in the context of a debate about online dating. I said that if you’re going to set up a date with someone and you can’t find anything about them on Facebook… I’d extend that to other social networks. If you can’t find a photo of them and there’s no photo on the dating site either, then you should be suspicious. That person seems to be trying to hide something.

At which point Yoffe helpfully interjects, We’re all trying to hide something, Farhad.

But the Head Cheerleader WILL NOT BE DETERRED!

But to the letter writer’s question beyond dating, I think that it’s better to have a social networking profile for a couple reasons. You are taking control of your online life then. If you have nothing about yourself online, your friends may post stuff about you on Facebook, you may come up on a news story, you may come up on a search engine. I think it’s better just generally to take control of your presence online.

And if you don’t have one, I think people will judge you based on that. Maybe it’s different in some circles. This guy says he works in the trades. I think that in some kinds of professions, it’s not as necessary as others. In our profession, it seems like it’s required.

I’ve looked at the numbers for Facebook. If you look at the demographics, it’s not like only young people have Facebook. It pretty much cuts across most demographic lines, and from what I can tell, also socioeconomic lines. They have a billion people around the world. Lots of people are on Facebook and I think you’re kind of judged now, for better or worse, if you don’t. [emph added]

Aaaaannnnnd we’re all back in junior high.

Manjoo does at least insert a “for better or worse”, and later admits that It’s work. This guy says he feel overwhelmed by it. He raises setting up a generic profile, but that’s going to still be work. I agree. But,as he goes on to say,

it’s your reputation. You have to maintain your reputation in the offline world. If somebody is talking about you and telling untruths about you, you have deal with it and you have to deal with it online.

And how, pray-tell, does a Facebook account slay those untruthy evildoers? Will the mere presence of a Facebook page demonstrate my upright nature, disciplined work-habits, uncomplaining demeanor, and good hygiene? And in such a manner to override and overcome any possible suggestions otherwise?

Here’s a new tagline: Facebook: When You Need To Prove Your Innocence. And You Do.

Who knew social technology could be so liberating?