Wednesday, July 19, 2006

How Deep is Your Gutter? (and Geek Wednesday)

Condi, look out!!! There's a guy coming in...oh, it's just a painting, never mind.

Here we are in the era of dead diplomacy, and there is much talk of how the right wing's rhetoric has reached into the gutter. I beg to differ: gutters in my world are only a few inches deep. American political discourse has gone way past the gutter, beyond the sewer, and now resides in those fathomless depths that are the stuff of science fiction stories. Or Harry Potter novels (the Chamber of Secrets). As Colbert showed us during a recent "Word" segment, fat wingnutters have been tripping over one another on the Sunday morning shout-fests to declare that we are now in "World War III"—and scarcely concealing their delight.

On the corporate front, Wal-Mart, fresh and strong and green from its inspiring environmental initiatives, is back to attack mode in dealing with union organizers. The Dark Star's weaponry features ad hominem attack ads against prominent union leaders. One insightful observer, Steven Silvers, noted that this is "straight out of the Swift Boat playbook," and predicted the tactic would become de rigeur in corporate America.

Well, Mr. Silvers, I've worked in corporate America for upwards of 20 years, and I can tell you that it already is. The Karl Rove Offense is not a fresh invention. If you can't find a hole in an idea, punch a few holes in the person presenting it. I see it every damned day in my gig, and if the smallest fraction of corporate workers were to read this, I'm betting my Comments bin would be overflowing with assent.

And now, for our Parallel Reality Logic of the Week Award: it goes to our President, who said:

“It’s in our interest that Syria stay out of Lebanon and this government survive,” Bush said in a reference to the young, Lebanese government.

So naturally, you throw all your support behind the idea of your chief ally in the region bombing the shit out of the young nation, so its government can survive, you know...

Geek Wednesday

Morford outdoes himself in this piece about Windows, Macs, and geexxx. Here's a selection:

Before you can object, Windows yanks off its startup screen and whips out some mangled kernel code so scarred and meaty and discolored it looks like something Steve Ballmer might feed to his rabid daschunds. Or vice versa.

"I'll give it to you good, baby. Send you to the moon! To the stars! To the iTunes Music Store without a single sudden inexplicable freeze!"

It is, of course, the same old story, the same old come-on, Win once again acting all smooth and charming but completely unable to avoid that world-famous sheen of BS propaganda, coupled with a smell that's a disquieting cross between wet plastic and old cardboard and roughly 10 billion collected hours of lost productivity.

"And by the way, I sure do appreciate you dumping another $49.95 for the latest in mandatory anti-virals." A chortle emits from somewhere beneath its Recycle Bin. "Damn, that stuff is like digital Viagra! My Start button is throbbing like Tom Cruise at a Scientology rave!"

I sent this link around to some of the geeks at work today, and one later said to me, "that's the first time I've ever had to go change my shorts after reading a tech article."

It was one of those thanks-for-sharing moments at the office. Now for your Geek Wednesday Links:

Foreseeing the Uber-Mac: Ars Technica has a detailed look ahead at what the Power Mac desktop tower may become in its Intel incarnation. It will all come clear and clean at the WWDC in just over two weeks; where we will also get our first look at Mac OS X 10.5, "Leopard". I stick to my earlier prediction: watch Steve make a bold announcement on an early rollout for this OS, just to tweak Uncle Bill's nose once more, now that the latter's Vista product is sprouting more bugs than a flophouse mattress and is already at least a month behind schedule.

By the way, if you're among the Windows crowd and are vaguely curious about these fruity machines that now can run MS Project and all your other favorite Windows-only apps (yow!), you can have a very vivid experience of the Mac OS X UI on your machine, right now. Just go fly a kite, and you'll be there (click the graphic for a closer look).

Virtual Reality: On the Wintel front, MS is now giving away Virtual PC. It's a very neat utility for running multiple OS's and browser versions (N.B.: you need XP Pro to accommodate VPC; it won't run on XP Home). Look for them to eventually start giving away VPC for Mac as well, once the Intel machines become prominent in the Mac universe.

Finally, you geeks get a dose of my tree-hugging New Age tofu salad (what, you think you're immune?). This is the last chapter of my Life Lessons in a Time of War, and it's called "Random Access Memory":

This computer works, I am told, because of its RAM: Random Access Memory. Is this how I should work, too?

Why should my memory's access be random? Can't it make a choice? Can't it make up its mind?

The computer's RAM gives it an artificial intelligence. But randomness is the antithesis of intelligence; the denial of meaning. Randomness is the way of war; the way of chaos. No matter how well you guide the missile, it cannot avoid the innocents who lie in its wake.

Sometimes the center seems so far away. Sometimes the still point seems lost to feeling and being—as remote as those dark and scarlet clouds in Hubble photography, whose names all begin with NGC.

We seek the center because it feels distant. If it were not distant, then what would there be to look for, after all?

Thus we cry out, "ah, where is Peace? Where is the still point that the seers say I began with, sometime before all the nebulae came into being? Where is my fetal heart, the face I saw in the mirror of eternity before my parents' bodies joined together in ecstasy?"

Where else but in the body that is the gift of this life? And what else could that body be but pure energy in disguise? What else could form and matter be but space compressed and given shape? What else could darkness be but light made palpable and solid and alive?

Your senses tell you part of the story of god. Your feelings fill in the rest of what you can know. Look for god where others don't; where you haven't looked before; where the teachers and the experts tell you god is not.

If god is in the atom, then it is also in the bomb. The big bang was the original nuclear blast, but so far as we know, it had no political or territorial motive. The universe does not destroy things, but transforms them. God departs whenever the fuse of hatred is lit, when the bomb is dropped amid the field of malignity, onto the city of innocence.

God may be perfect, but it is not stupid.

1 comment:

Nicky the Geek said...

Just a note on your Random Access Memory metaphor. While the words may bring thoughts of chaos to mind, RAM is actually an evolution of memory access in the computer world.

Rather than arbitrary access, as it may seem, RAM actually allows you to recall only the bit of information that you want, without recalling or reviewing any other data. Before the advent of RAM, computers (or Ye Olde Turing Machines) would search sequential bits and bytes of data to find what they were looking for. This process was incredibly inefficient, especially with large amounts of storage. Random Access brought great efficiency to data reading.

But when you bring all of this computer science history to light, a funny thing happens to that metaphor. Perhaps if more people accessed their memory sequentially, they wouldn't repeat their past mistakes. But instead, in our 3 second attention span world, we choose the "better", more efficient method, AKA - selective memory.

Now, go have a field day with that!