Monday, October 31, 2011

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Autumn Apples

Got these at the farmer's market on St-Dominique between St-Joseph and Laurier.  That (and the closing down of the street that allowed it to exist) have turned out to be a real boon.  I'll miss it when they close for the winter.

But what's the story with the local apple trees.  I passed several in the alleys of Mile End and they all have this diseased look.  The owners let them fall and rot, so I imagine they aren't edible.  Does anybody know what the story is?

Saturday, October 08, 2011

The Hank Williams Scandal: Bad Logic and Butthurt

Are you ready for some butthurt!
The whole Hank Williams "scandal" perfectly encapsulates everything that is wrong with American political culture and the media that amplifies it.  In a nutshell, Americans want to be offended, they want to be outraged.  They are constantly looking for fuel to feed their baseless resentment.  And the media is constantly providing.

After saying he wouldn't support any of the Republican party candidates for president, non-celebrity, non-pundit, non-talented Hank Williams Jr. complained about Obama and Boehner (Safari spellcheck suggests "Boner" here) playing golf together.  He then made the simile that them doing was would be like Netanyahu and Hitler playing golf together.

Cue the butthurt.  Get ready for the outrage.  We're all so offended that he would dare to "compare Obama to Hitler".  The announcers kept probing to make absolutely sure that he was aware that he had dared to use the word Hitler.  The next few days there is a wave of media reaction.  Monday Night Football ends their contract with him (his song "Are you Ready for some Football!" has been the opening theme since 1989).

Who is angry? What is your reasoning for being offended?  There is none.  These words did not offend the people who are freaking out.  They are already offended.  Their whole lives are consciously or sub-consciously dedicated to seeking out reasons to get into an uproar.  This is our puritan culture, the same one that freaked out about comic books or Dungeons & Dragons or Janet's nipple slip.

The righteousness and the vigilance has always been there.  The new element is the personal affront.  Now it's not just morally offensive, it's actually a personal attack against you somehow.  Everything is about you now.  Right or left. It's like a competition between two drama queens about who can be the most personally damaged by somebody else's words.  Nobody gives a shit about Hank Williams Jr., particularly on the left (most people on the left had probably never even heard of him) and now all of a sudden his words are so powerful and dangerous that he must be forced to apologize and his music must not be allowed to be heard!

Bad Logic
The thing that is so insane about all this is that he did not even compare Obama to Hitler.  He compared the association of Boehner and Obama, two people who are supposed to be enemies, to the leader of the Jewish state and the leader of the state that wanted to kill all the Jews, clearly enemies.  Logically, it's the same  as saying "Boehner and Obama playing golf together is like a cat and dog going for a walk together."  He wasn't comparing Hitler to anyone.  But the use of that word is a trigger for the perpetually butthurt.  So all logic is thrown out the window.  The need for the emotional release trumps rationality and clear thought.  This is why America is doomed.  We're stupid and emotional.

Now to really trigger the butthurt
This same phenomenon is what made 9/11 so awesome for most Americans (minus the ones who actually lost somebody).  It was the butthurt they had all been waiting for for so long.  The real shock the followed the attacks was not that somebody had actually dared to attack America.  Americans had been behaving as if they were under attack for a decade already.  The shock was the incredible scale of it.  But the fact of it played right into everyone's desire to be angry and righteous.

And then look at the most famous flawed logic of the 21st century that followed 9/11: the costly, wasteful, politically ineffective invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan which resulted in a stronger, crazier form of Islamic Extremism and an acceleration of America's economic collapse.

The choice that Americans were given was: 1) indulge in your most satisfying, childish emotions of righteous anger or 2) suck it up and make rational decisions about your country's future.  They chose the first option and they are still choosing it.  The media and the politicians are all banking on that choice and that is probably the road we are going to ride right into oblivion.

So keep an eye out for future media-fueled butthurt incidents.  Ask yourself if what was said is truly offensive.  Check the logic of the arguments.  And even if you do find solid logic and a reason to be offended, look deep inside yourself.  Are you really offended?  Or was that emotion already there?

Thursday, October 06, 2011

RIP Steve Jobs

Just have to join the cavalcade of reaction to Steve Jobs' death.  While I am generally very much against this weird public mourning that our society seems to feel it has to do every time somebody famous dies, I do appreciate the recognition that society is giving to Steve Jobs' impact on our society.

We got our first computer in 1984 and it was a Mac.  My dad was a longtime computer hobbyist, but highly critical of the mainstream trends of computing and it was a running joke in our family about how my dad kept putting off buying a computer.  The whole family stood around the kitchen table as we opened the box and took out all the smaller boxes.  Looking back on it now, I realize that it was one of the earliest times that I would see a product where the packaging was all part of a total product experience.  Not sure if that is such a good thing, but it is certainly ubiquitous today (though still nobody is able to do it as well as Apple).

Man, did I ever get into that thing.  Happily, the computer was kept in the guest room right across from my bedroom.  I used to spend hours with MacPaint, playing Infocom games, just monkeying around.  I still find it a bit hard to believe that you used to have to actually load the programs into RAM via the disk drive.  I got amazingly fast at swapping 3.5" floppies in and out.  The joke (that I only learned about during the best man speech at my wedding) was that when I invited people over to come play with our Mac, it meant inviting people over to come and watch me play with the Mac. Sorry guys!  For my sister's birthday,  I made a birthday card with MacPaint and signed it "From the family and Macie" and then I had the voice synthesizer say happy birthday to her.

I got way out of computers when I went to college (even though, Ironically, I went to Reed, whose computer lab was one of the first all Mac college labs in the country).  I sort of regret that, as I lost some learning.  When I did get into the workforce, my first corporate job was in a Mac environment and all of a sudden I was the only guy who knew how to really make them sing.  From then on in, in my varied career, my computer skills have always been a fundamental part of whatever job I've been doing.  I actually went back to school a few years ago and got a diploma in Computer Science.  I just didn't have the focus or the nerdy patience to tinker with UNIX when I was a kid.  The interface of the Mac stimulated my imagination and got me into computers.  Today, I'm working in a mostly Windows office  and have made my peace with that ugly but functional OS.  It helps that I don't have to live in fear of never using a decent interface again.  Thanks to Apple (and Google and a lot of other factors), competition is fierce in the computer market.

Today, the Apple haters are in the minority and on the run.  And even they have to recognize Apple's impact on technology.  But it didn't used to be like that.  Back in the day, Mac users were a real minority, sneered at and dismissed by more "serious" computer users.  I can't tell you how many times I had to listen to people argue with this sort of pedantic, superior tone about how Macs weren't a real business computer, how it was totally correct for game companies to not design games for them, how you couldn't actually control them (yeah, like DOS was somehow really getting at the guts of the system).  Where are those sysadmins and businessmen today?  Desperately waiting in line for their iPhone 4S, that's where.  Suck it bitches!  Sorry, I know that's petty during this sad time, but I just can't help myself.  You were wrong and I was right.

Oh yes, and a special shout-out to all you losers who used the Macs are too expensive argument.  Yes, for a certain percentage of the North American population, a Mac is out of their price range and they can get a fine Windows laptop for a lot cheaper.  But the ones who were making that argument were also usually owners of tricked out 6K gaming boxes who would run out to line up and buy the latest videogame at $100 a pop every month.

I have many criticisms with Apple as a company and the direction they are taking their software, but I am so grateful that Apple exists.  Can you imagine a world where Microsoft was the only interface?  Where Blackberry dominated the cell phone market?  We got pretty close, and it was freaking scary.  Today, it's a truism that the user experience is the most important factor in selling computers to people.  That is thanks to Steve Jobs and all the people behind the Macintosh.  We are going to hell in handbasket, destroying our planet and letting the fascists back into power, but at least we have some awesome technology to play with while it all goes down.  Oh yeah, and good animated movies as well.  Thanks Steve and rest in peace.