Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Stopping the noise…
October 31, 2011

The television is gone.

Literally. I threw out the television with a lot of other stuff when I had the junkman come and load his truck. But before that I cut the cable. Not literally, but I told the cable company, "No more! Cease! Basta! Stop!" That got rid of most of the telecrap, and a month later even the dregs were gone. I’ve been without the stuff since September 20.

I think my blood pressure dropped a few points.

I was addicted to the stream of images, yes. My brain wanted them, wanted that flow of motion and noise. And some sick part of my psyche reinforced the addiction because my social life barely exists and television characters had become my social life. Between those two forces I was letting myself wreck on the reefs of triviavision.

But a long time ago I quit smoking, almost thirty years ago, having my last two cigarettes on the day I went to divorce court. And I was a heavy smoker. If I could do that, I could certainly quit television.

Turns out television wasn’t so tough. After a couple of days I barely missed it, and now I have no interest in reviving it in my home or watching it elsewhere.

I do miss a couple of things. English soccer. The occasional professional rugby game from the far corners of the world. And that’s about it. There’s nothing else to miss on that misbegotten box. Maybe The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

The news programs have continued their descent into trivia and hysteria, delivered by people who barely qualify to appear in a still photograph, much less to deliver the news on television. All that can be said of a news program that tells you there is something incredibly important happening, something you absolutely must know, something that affects your health or your welfare, and then says they’ll tell you at the end of the show, or in an upcoming segment which doesn’t come up until ‘later’, all that can be said of such news programs is that selling you their advertisers’ products is way more important than giving you that piece of information.

I won’t even go into the fraud that televised American professional sports commit every week. But just one little example, one serious peeve… The NFL broadcasts run three hours. Official game time is one hour. But actual play consumes about twelve minutes. Twelve minutes of the ball in play, twelve minutes out of three hours. Sorry, fans, that’s fraud. They’re telling you your time will buy you three hours of football, but they’re only giving you twelve minutes. That’s television. I gave up on the NFL some years ago, except for an occasional game, but I could barely stand watching because of the constant insult. The game that really turned me off had Cincinnati playing someone, and the game opened with five straight penalty calls from the horde of officials on the field. Game over!

Later

I wrote all that exactly one month ago, on September 30. The only television I’ve seen since then was in a restaurant where it was impossible to sit anywhere without seeing a television running sports programming (NFL replays, if I recall correctly).

But here’s the interesting thing. I feel calmer, more collected, more connected to myself. I suspect my blood pressure is down because I’m not constantly aggravated by television programming.

And here’s something a little more interesting. I don’t really care what happens in Libya or Somalia or Thailand. I don’t really care that Rick Perry is an arrogant, egotistical, ignorant Texas loudmouth. I’m neither excited nor worried about the Occupy Wall Street movement.

It’s not that I’m not aware of the human element in all these dramas on the world stage. It’s not that I no longer appreciate human suffering or human triumph. But I am no longer assaulted by breathless reporters and concerned anchorpeople telling me by word and action that I should be concerned, that everything that is happening everywhere should demand my attention, should capture my emotions, should stay tuned in order to hear the latest developments in the next hour, developments which are exactly the same as in this hour, and whose subtext is ‘Watch our commercials!’ And of course the sub-subtext: ‘Isn’t my hair pretty!’

I see television now as an assault on emotions, an affront to intellect, a waste of airwaves. Its trivialization of everything down to the level of a child’s mind demeans the viewers. And what isn’t trivialized is generally dumbed down.

Apologists for television will say that it does some good things, that it is not all a Minowian wasteland. And that is true. Television covers live events pretty well. Freeway chases where cops race after felons on California highways, for example. Some battle scenes in various wars, as long as American television blurs out or simply refuses to show the devastating results of a child hit by bullets or shrapnel. They don’t want to upset the viewers, who might turn to another channel and watch those other commercials. So they lie. Here’s the war correspondent and his cameraman hunkering down behind a wall while bullets whiz around them. Wow! It’s as exciting as an NFL game and even less truthful. You don’t get real war on television. You get pretend war, you get prettified war that lets you go on cheering for your side because, after all, nobody really gets hurt. Not on American television.

Television almost never tells the truth. The truth hurts sales. Children turned to red paste and shattered bone by American arms just doesn’t sell McDonalds’ burgers or General Motors cars or Nike shoes. And anyway you can see all the gore you want at the movies or on the premium movie channels.

But yes, once in a while something worth watching shows up, but because it is surrounded by the rest of television, by triviavision, by pretendvision, by lievision, can you really trust that one good thing to be the real thing? And with outfits like Fox News imitating Pravda, can you trust any news channel?

So, my television is gone, and I’m doing fine without it. The noise in the air is gone and the tumult of noise in my head is gone. I’ve got reality settling in all around me now, and it’s a little banal and it’s pleasant and I think I’ll stick with it. And there’s no commercials to screw it up.

Boston Trolley Crash Due To Texting Driver; Dozens Injured
May 9, 2009

The lead story in today’s Globe tells of one trolley crashing into another because the driver was sending a text message to his girlfriend. At least forty-nine people were injured.

The other day a bus driver in San Antonio, Texas, crashed his bus into the back of an SUV because he was texting. Unfortunately for him, the bus video recorded what he was doing.

What the hell is the matter with the managers of our  public transport systems? This has happened often enough that the only thing that makes sense is to take away transport drivers’ cellphones when they report to work. They shouldn’t even be talking on a cellphone, much less texting.

The Lion suggests that these two drivers be kicked out on their ass, prohibited from working in transport ever again, and be held liable for financial damages, along with their transportation systems.

But then The Lion also believes the executives of cigarette companies should be tried and imprisoned for manslaughter, if not frigging genocide, and that everyone involved in American torture of prisoners, from the President and Cabinet officers down to the actual interrogators, who apparently have the morals and ethics of the worst sort of criminals, should be tried and imprisoned.

Easy to see how all that worked out. Kiss the rule of law goodbye, and welcome the conflation of legality and morality. If the lawyer says torture is okay, then it must be moral. If the rules let me carry a cellphone while I drive the train, it must be okay to text while driving.

Whoops! Watch out for the flying body parts.

Jacoby strikes… out… Part 2
April 29, 2009

Jeff Jacoby, a conservative Boston Globe columnist, wrote a column the other day castigating the call for automobiles with higher fuel efficiency (The Lion’s response is here).

Today he comes back with his promised Part 2 to prove his case that high fuel efficiency leads to greater demand for oil.

Some samples:

"It seems obvious that rising efficiency in cars, furnaces, and lawn mowers should, in the aggregate, significantly curb demand for energy," write Peter Huber and Mark Mills in "The Bottomless Well," their perceptive 2005 book on the supply, demand, and pricing of energy. "Sad to say, however . . . efficiency doesn’t lower demand, it raises it."

Why? Because improvements in fuel economy effectively make fuel less expensive, and when costs fall, demand tends to rise. As driving has grown cheaper in recent decades, people have done more of it – choosing to drive to work instead of taking the bus, for example, or buying a second car, or moving to a house with a longer commute, or sending the kids to college with cars of their own. Between 1983 and 2001, data from the Energy Information Administration show, the number of annual vehicle-miles driven by the average American household rose from 16,800 vehicle-miles to more than 23,000.

And…

This counterintuitive phenomenon – greater efficiency leads to greater consumption – is sometimes called the Jevons Paradox, after the 19th-century mathematician who first articulated it. In his 1865 book, "The Coal Question," Jevons explained that more efficient use of coal would increase the demand for coal. "It is a confusion of ideas to suppose that the economical use of fuel is equivalent to a diminished consumption," he wrote. "The very contrary is the truth."

Does this mean you shouldn’t drive a more fuel-efficient automobile? Not at all: If you crave better mileage or you want to make an environmental statement or you think a hybrid can save you money, by all means get a more efficient car. Just don’t expect to see fuel consumption decrease. New technology is often wondrous, but that’s one miracle it can’t perform.

Well, of course cheaper fuel increases demand. But Jacoby leaves out a major factor in the demand increase in the United States.

Note this:

…Congress enacted the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards in 1975, following the Arab oil embargo. At the time, US oil imports amounted to a little more than one-third of consumption. Today we import two-thirds. After more than three decades of CAFE standards, heightened environmental awareness, and steady improvements in fuel efficiency and engine technology, America’s demand for oil is greater than ever. In 1975, highway fuel consumption amounted to 109 billion gallons, according to the Federal Highway Administration. By 2006 it had climbed to 175 billion.

What Jacoby conveniently doesn’t mention in his columns is that the population of the United States since 1975 has increased by about 100,000,000 people(that’s one hundred million for the numerical illiterates). But of course that had nothing to do with increasing demand, did it, Jacoby? Three hundred million people use a hell of a lot more oil than two hundred million. That fact seems to have escaped Jacoby.

If the population had remained stable across this period at about two hundred million, and truly efficient autos had been put fully into play, yes, demand would likely have increased as people a) drove somewhat more and b) new uses were found for oil. But Jacoby chalks up the entire increase in demand to the outdated and pretty much ignored CAFE standards of 1975 and to increased fuel efficiency.

In fact it’s not unlikely that had the government  insisted on highly fuel efficient vehicles back then (when the rest of the world was already way ahead of American auto manufacturers in that regard) we might have had considerably lower demand across the decades since 1975, despite the growth of population and technology.

Let’s us all pause a moment to reflect on President Ronnie Raygun ordering that the solar panels be ripped off the roof of the White House in a fit of Republican Conservatism. He also ended the tax credits President Carter had created to encourage the use of solar energy. Reagan thus crippled the solar energy industry for decades. Reagan’s actions resulted from the sort of thinking that Jacoby apparently admires. The United States and the world are today paying a horrible price for what Conservative Republicans… oh, hell, any Republican… call ‘thinking’.

Jacoby’s agenda is typically Conservative. Let’s not change anything, let’s ignore science and evidence, let’s ignore inconvenient facts, and let’s go back to the good old days when white men ruled, greed was good, and everybody knew their place, and nothing would ever change, and God would save the world for rich white people.

Yes, and let’s bring back hand-pumped fire wagons to save our homes and cities from the flames. The Lion is sure that Jacoby will be only too happy to volunteer.

New Laws Of Robotics For The Pentagon’s Autonomous Killer Robots
March 26, 2009

The Pentagon’s planners and dreamers seek to create killer battlefield robots which operate without human control. Turn them loose in a city and let them decide who to kill.

Obviously such a robot would need a high degree of artificial intelligence. Ultimately these machines would likely develop their own set of robotic laws to insure their survival.

First Law: Breed.

Second Law: Kill all humans.

Third Law: Create a God.

Oh, wait a minute! That’s Cylons. Been there, done that.

Maybe the Pentagon boys have been watching too much television.

In-Depth Commentary On The State Of The Union Address By President George W. Bush
January 29, 2008

B

U

L

L

S

H

I

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Deep enough for ya?

 

The Lion Wins A Battle With Technology!
January 22, 2008

Alright! The new machine is turned on and beautiful (The Lion had a girl like that, back when).

Naturally there had to be a hitch, and naturally it had to be with the Internet. Couldn’t connect (hmmmm, that’s a problem with the women these days for The Lion).

However, after half an hour with a Comcast tech we figured out the cable was a little hinky (damn! what was her name…?)

Fixed that and have been immersed in Vista ever since.

The computer is gorgeous. All black and brushed chrome an intense little blue lights. And fast! O my isitfast! (Had a girl like that too.)

And quiet too. The old one was noisy. (Ummmm…. can’t decide.)

The Lion hopes to develop a beautiful relationship with this machine. (Might as well. Can’t get a date.) And of course there’s always the router to look forward to…

The Lion Challenges Technology, Or Vice Versa…
January 21, 2008

The Lion has purchased a new computer, a very nice Dell, with bells and whistles, lots of memory, and Vista.

So far, The Lion has managed to hook up all the wires, with very little thanks to the basically crummy Dell documentation, and The Lion has managed to make room on his crowded desk to put the new hardware alongside the old computer, which still runs well, thank you.

The next step will be to plug everything in to the electric outlet feeding the surge suppressor. And then the tricky part – switching the cable modem to the new machine before firing everything up and hoping it all works.

And then dealing with Vista. The Lion invested in a whole thick O’Reilly book to cover anything that might be a thorn in the paw.

And then… hooking up a wired Linksys router so that both machines can talk to the internet, and possibly, if The Lion understands what he’s read so far, talk to each other.

The Lion finds all of this quite anxiety provoking, especially since it’s been six years since he had to go through this ordeal by cable. In keeping with his typical approach to life, The Lion is procrastinating, though for the sake of his reputation he calls it ‘gathering information’.

In any event, The Lion apologizes for not posting his usual enlightening and stunningly provocative posts (the ones with the naked women…), and hopes within a few days to be able to assuage his public’s (the six of you know who you are) addiction.

And does anybody out there know how to hook up a router….?

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