May 15, 2010

The Future is More Convenient

On the bus ride  home this afternoon I occupied myself by reading The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. (It’s a book worth reading. It may even possibly, perhaps get its own blog post in the future – maybe.) While reading, I came across the word encephalitic. I had a vague idea of what it meant, but I wanted a better understanding. I lay my book down and I pulled out my Nexus One (for those with technology agnosia, that’s a smartphone) and used it to pull up the Wikipedia page for encephalitis. If you’re web-savvy enough to be reading a blog, then you should know how the Wikipedia rabbit hole works. Still, for my readers that don’t know (Mom): halfway through an article, you find a link to another interesting article. That leads you to another, the process continues. In the end, you have a dozen open windows and a lot more trivial knowledge than you had thirty minutes ago.

The encephalitis article had a link to an article on photophobia. I know someone who suffers from this, though neither one of us was aware of the medical term. With a few taps, I texted them the link. The encephalitis article also had a link to an article on Oliver Sacks, the author of the book I was reading, so of course I followed that one. The article on Sacks mentioned his book Musicophilia, which I would like to read. That reminded me that I had not completed my order when I was sitting at my computer shopping for books on Amazon this morning. I switched to the Amazon App, added Musicophilia to my shopping cart, removed another book that I had added (from my home computer) this morning, and completed checkout. The article also mentioned that another Oliver Sacks book, Awakenings, had been made into a movie. I switched over to PhoneFlicks, an app that allows me to manage my Netflix account, and I added Awakenings to my queue. This all (research on Wikipedia, texting the link, ordering the book, queuing the movie) took about 15 minutes.

After doing all of this, I had to take a moment to appreciate the convenience that this one piece of technology has brought into my life. Decades ago, our visions of the future involved flying cars, colonization of far off planets, and other ideas that seemed exciting. In reality, the technology that is changing our culture is the technology that makes things more convenient for us. A flying car would be cool for a while – but a device that let’s me spend 15 minutes to accomplish what would have once required a trip to the library, the bookstore, and the video store is a device that is more than just cool and exciting – it’s useful.

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March 10, 2010

Smoking Hand

Smoking Hand

Along with my regular posts (which may or may not increase in frequency) I will be showcasing some of my photography. This particular one was manipulated in Photoshop, but the face is straight from the original image.

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June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson

Tape recorder

On one of my earlist birthdays that I remember, my parents gave me a tape recorder similar to the one pictured above (but less curvy). Along with the tape recorder, I got my very first tape – a copy of Michael Jackson’s Thriller. For as long as I’ve been listening to music, I’ve been listening to Michael Jackson – and the songs have never gotten old. Michael’s music has accompanied me through every stage of my life. There are millions of people out there with a similar story regarding Michael and his music.

However, there are also millions of people without a similar story. As I browse through the various social networks I participate in, I am finding that when it comes to MJ, people fall into one of three categories. In category one are folks like me – folks whose lives have been greatly affected by his talent, folks who are saddened by his passing. In the second category are people who were not very much affected by his music, people who aren’t really moved by his death. I can understand where they’re coming from – if you were not affected by him and his music when he was alive, why would his death really matter to you?

The third category is made up of people who seem extremely annoyed and bothered that a likely child molester is getting so much positive attention. It seems ridiculous that people would mourn the death of a pedophile. The thing these people don’t seem to be understanding is that Michael was human. No human is just one thing. Michael was a troubled person, a talented musician, a father, and yes, a possible pedophile. Mourning the death of someone who has touched our lives the way Michael did does not mean that category one people approve of the things he was accused of, it simply means that that is not all we see of him. If Michael didn’t affect your life, fine, don’t mourn him. If you see him as a pedophile, that’s fine too, because there is some justification for that. However, whatever you feel about the man, it is not fair to hold it against the people who see more than the negative side of Michael Jackson.

I do think it’s pretty likely that Michael did molest some children and I have always been disgusted and disappointed by that possibility, but I can never forget the beautiful music he has brought to the world and to my life in particular. RIP MJ.

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June 24, 2009

Photography (Part 1)

Ahd Child

Many years ago, I got my first digital camera as a Christmas gift. I don’t remember the make and model, but I believe its max resolution was 3.1 megapixels (which seemed pretty high at the time - similar to how my 2GB hard drive seemed vast once). At the time, I didn’t know anything about photography – I anticipated using the camera to capture pictures of friends. Being the geek that I am, I of course read the manual from end to end. It was my eagerness to test out all the features I’d read about that lead me to set my camera to macro mode and approach a berry-laden bush that was in my path one day.

I took several close up shots of the berries, but one in particular ended up being an absolutely amazing shot. It was perfectly composed so that the berries formed diagonal lines that were guided the eye around the image. It was perfectly focused so that the naturally occurring chaotic arrangement of berries appeared to form several distinct layers. It was perfectly exposed so that the rich, red color of the berries was immediately drew a viewer’s attention. And, it was a complete accident.

The berry shot was a very fortunate and significant accident. After taking a shot like that, how could I not want to take more? Of course I didn’t expect shots like that to always simply happen, so I started to research photography. I read everything about photography that I could find on the internet and I sat around in the Barnes and Noble cafe, taking notes on photography books that I couldn’t afford to purchase. Of course, I quickly determined that to really move forward in photography, I’d need an SLR. That same year, months after getting my first digital camera, I moved back to film. For my birthday, I got the cheapest, fully manual SLR that Ritz Camera had to offer.

I did learn to develop black and white film (though I’ve forgotten all of that now) but I only had limited access to a dark room, so I did most of my shooting on color film. Fortunately, around this time, Snapfish.com came into existence and offered insanely cheap developing by mail. Despite this, I ended up spending tons of  money on developing and camera accessories over the next few months. Gradually my film shooting slowed down, and eventually, as funds ran out,  it stopped.

Over the years since then, I’ve continued to learn about photography and to shoot with digital point-and-shoot cameras. I always went with Canon’s Powershot A line because of the many manual features the A cameras have, but still, a point and shoot camera does not offer the level of control that a true SLR offers.

Recently, I finally got a digital SLR. Though I never stopped taking pictures, with the level of quality and control the dSLR offers, I feel like I’m making a return to photography. I’ve been posting regularly to my once-dormant Flickr account and I’ve been making connections with other photographers. I still have a lot to learn about photography and I am excited to learn it.

I’d love to hear your story of how you got into photography. Let me know – post a comment.

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February 24, 2009

I’m Gonna #019

I’m gonna regularly refer to myself in the 2nd person.

I’m Gonna #019a (a corollary)
I’m gonna figure out how to refer to myself in the 2nd person.

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February 17, 2009

Be a philosopher

It’s been a while since I’ve immersed myself in the writings of long dead philosophers, but a lot of what I read in those days tends to come back to me regularly.  For example, constantly remind myself of Socrates’ statement that the best life is that of the philosopher. I remind myself of this because I believe it and so I strive to live that life. I think it’s something everyone should strive for, but it seems that when the subject of philosophy comes up, people tend to dismiss it as unimportant. Philosophy is seen as the province of academics and thinkers who don’t worry about practical things like pragmatic living and action. This impression of philosophy, though widespread, is wrong.  I am starting to believe that many people dismiss philosophy so quickly because they don’t quite understand what it is. 

Most people have heard Descartes’ now cliche statement “I think, therefore I am.” Taken alone, this can seem like a silly and pointless statement of the obvious. I frequently get the impression that this statement, minus it’s context, represents what many people expect of philosophy. “I think, therefore I am” was not in any way meant to be the powerful conclusion it is usually made out to be, it is merely one line that occurs close to the beginning of Descartes argument for the existence of god.

Whether one is a devout follower of one of the world’s religions or a complete atheist, an argument such as this one should hold some importance. Why would an argument for the existence of god be important to someone who has already made up his mind on the question? Going back to Socrates, the best life is that of the philosopher. To expand on this – in order to live a good life, one must know what good is. In order to know what good is, one must constantly seek its meaning and question one’s findings. Believing you know the answer to a question such as this one is not a reason to stop investigating it. Many of the greatest discoveries and breakthroughs have come about after disproving established but wrong beliefs.

Philosophy is hard to define because it encompasses a lot of questions relating to seemingly different subjects. Basically, philosophy is the study of how the world works throught the application of reason. Descartes’ Discourse is an attempt use reason to prove the existence of god. Plato’s Republic is an attempt to use logic to determine what it means to live the good life. Other philosophical works deal with these “problems” and others including the nature of the mind, the duty and best form of government, the value of art, etc.

What I find ironic is that many of the same people who dismiss Philosophy actually do spend considerable time attempting to answer philosophical questions. The benefit of calling it by name is that by recognizing that there are hundreds of pages of writing devoted to the very same questions you are asking will give you access to a wealth of ideas on those topics.

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February 4, 2009

I’m Gonna #018

I’m gonna respond to all statements with succinct modifiers that throw doubt on the original statement.

“Worms are disgusting.”

“So you believe.”

“Stop being a jerk.”

“Supposedly.”

“You’re not even making sense anymore.”

“So you’ve been told.”

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January 30, 2009

Nothing Expected

NothingExpected.com

I announced my plan for 2009, but then I was worried about meeting the February deadline I set for myself. Well, there was no need to worry.  I realised that the whole site revamp I wanted to do wasn’t going to happen by February, but that was no reason not to go ahead with my 2009 plan.

So, without further ado, I’d like to announce the launch of NothingExpected.com. NothingExpected is a podcast/blog where you will find all of my 2009 creations available for free download. The site is still a work in progress, but it’s up and running and the first release is available. Visit the site, listen to the music, and subscribe in your reader or podcatcher of choice.

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