Saturday, August 28, 2010

Digital Minimalism

This article from London Evening Standard is the second such article I've run across in the past weeks.  The idea is to completely jettison all of your stuff -- except for MacBook, iPad, and iPhone. You keep your books, music, photos on your local portable computer and "in the cloud" and you don't have anything else to weigh you down. The other article described someone more extreme: the guy had only enough clothes to fill a backpack and he kept his electronic gear, including a couple of external hard drives, in a second bag. He claimed he slept on friends' couches and didn't have his own apartment. Don't remember where I saw this article. I'm trying to decide if it reminds me of a monastic environment -- many clerical and religious orders take vows of poverty and own nothing of their own, eating and living in communion with their order. Or is it more like a kind of updated William Gibson Neuromancer (published in 1984) scenario, in which the protagonists live a hand-to-mouth existence, unwillingly forced upon them by an amphetamine addiction in which they really "exist" only in the "consensual hallucination" that is the world wide computer and communications network. These two scenarios represent light and darkness, respectively, to me but both are intriguing in some fashion.

This, along with my digital longevity post from back in May 2010, inform (or exacerbate?) my weird enthusiasm for the cloud in general and Google in particular. I could be a digital nomad if I didn't have a family and a mortgage and a job and worries about saving enough money for retirement. At least I like to imagine being one. And my MacBook, iPad, and iPhone definitely make me feel cool!  :-)  Maybe a college student has an existence like this, living in dormitories and eating in cafeterias and lugging his laptop computer to and from the library to study. I loved being a college student although the thought of actually being one again is not-so-hot. Maybe I'll take classes at the local university when I retire, if that is even possible once I get to be that age, many years from now.

P.S. If you have read Neuromancer and like it, try White Light by Rudy Rucker to induce even more dreamlife bizarreness when you sleep at night.

Friday, August 20, 2010

74 Days 'til Election Day

My, how the roles have been reversed.  Buffalo Springfield said it best:

"There's something happening here
What it is ain't exactly clear
There's a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware
I think it's time we stop, children, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
There's battle lines being drawn
Nobody's right if everybody's wrong
Young people speaking their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind
I think it's time we stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
What a field-day for the heat
A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly say, hooray for our side
It's time we stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you're always afraid
You step out of line, the man come and take you away
We better stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
Stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
Stop, now, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
Stop, children, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down"

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Obama is Right About the Mosque Near Ground Zero

President Obama has gotten himself into some hot water with comments he made last night about the right of Muslims to build a mosque near ground zero. Far be it from me to defend this S.O.B. in anything -- but he is right in this case. Let's get the fact said and out of the way that it is puzzling and dismaying that there are some Muslims who actually want to build a mosque near a place of shame that has been psychologically attached to their religion among the population as a whole by a relative handful of so-called "jihadists". And there is no need to explain yet again that, no thanks to Obama and his far-left administration and supporters, we still have freedom of religion in this country, at least for the time being.  (I will reluctantly pass over for now the immoral compromise of so-called "Catholic" educators and health care professionals by the glib sloganeering of the administration and its supporters and the willing incomprehension of these "Catholic" Obama supporters.) That freedom of religion makes it practically impossible and, perhaps, wrong to oppose the building of such a mosque.

The most moderate and most convincing argument I've read yet for opposing this group of Muslims in their project has been, naturally enough, the latest Friday Charles Krauthammer column in the Washington Post. The historical citation with which he lost me was the attempted link with the expulsion of the Carmelite nuns years from Auschwitz years ago. Krauthammer's attempted assertion of equivalence is unfortunate and wrong. A few years ago, Pope John Paul the Great had to roll his eyes and request the evacuation of the nuns from the Auschwitz site because some Jewish people were enraged by their presence. Krauthammer says that while it was possible for the Catholic nuns to be there, praying for the souls of the people murdered there, it wasn't right for them to be there. Two points: Krauthammer is asserting an equivalence between the Muslims, rightly or wrongly suspected of triumphalism by wanting to build a mosque near Ground Zero, and Catholic Carmelite nuns. This is difficult to take seriously. Second, he is blind to the fact that many people died at Auschwitz for who and what they were and it is (also) outrageous to arrogate a totality, as opposed to a preponderance, of victimhood by any one group. (It is worth pointing out that today, August 14, the Catholic Church observes the feast of St. Maximilian Kolbe. And that August 9 is the feast day of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. Both of whom were individuals in a vast sea of people who perished at Auschwitz for who or what they were.)

Before reading Krauthammer's column, normally a fresh breeze of sanity in DC, I did not know what to think about the controversy. Now I do:  Obama is right ... as much as it hurts me to say that.