Tag Archives: ruminations

Where everybody knows my name

For the last 4 or 5 months, every Tuesday night I go to a locally owned restaurant/pub/grill, within walking distance of home. They know what I want, and bring it to me without my having to order. They know I need a table near a power outlet, so that I can plug in my laptop, and keep one open for me. They know I like to work undisturbed, and they leave me to work, come over to chat for a few minutes while I’m eating, and bring me the bill when I’m ready to go. They don’t try to upsell, supersize, or tell me about the special of the day. They remember that I like cheese fries, and that I like a lemon in my coke.

So what’s the point of all of this? Well, it’s just this. Find your local establishment, where people actually care about good service, and about their customers, and go there regularly. Support locally-owned, locally-operated stores, restaurants, and service businesses. They are a dying breed, and they are the only thing that makes your local neighborhood any different from a million other neighborhoods in the country. Sure, it might cost a little bit more, but you’re supporting your neighbor, rather than someone that lives in Washington or New York.

And, of course, the food is better, the atmosphere is better, and folks remember that you like the garden salad rather than the greek salad. And they say “How was your camping trip? We missed you last week.” when you arrive and “See you next Tuesday!” when you leave.

incommunicado no comment to make

Starting Tuesday evening, I will be incommunicado for a week, or as long as I can stand to be offline. I’ll be going way out into the woods, with no electricity, no internet, and probably out of cell phone range for much of the time, although I imagine I’ll find somewhere with cell coverage at least once a day.

I expect that when I come back, I’ll have roughly 15,000 email messages, of which perhaps as many as 20 will be something I actually want to read. Ok, I’ll be generous. 25.

I’ve been getting more and more spam lately, and nothing that I do to filter it seems to make any difference at all. I’m currently running SpamAssassin, a plethora of Postfix rules, and client-side Thunderbird filtering. Yet still, more than 90% of everything that winds up in my inbox is spam. I’m finally coming around to believing that email is worthless as a means of communication, but I don’t know what can replace it. I keep hoping that spammers will collectively realize that they are killing their golden goose, but clearly they aren’t that bright.

Also, I’ve noticed that the spammers who have succeeded in obfuscating their email so that it can get past my filters have finally reached the point where their messages are completely illegible. I have absolutely no idea what most of them are selling, or how to go about buying it if I did understand. And, I’m told, this makes up more than half of all the traffic on teh intarweb. While it’s reasonably clear to me that this is criminal, I can’t imagine any way that this could ever be prosecuted. 🙁

Easy to exit?

A lot of interesting ideas were brought up in the closing keynote at the CCCU conference, which was given by Wes Baker, from Cedarville.

One of the ideas that he discussed was the notion of self-selection of content, and how this affects our opinions, ideas, etc.

Technologies are encouraging group polarization, because it’s so easy to disconnect from people that you disagree with and reconnect with people who think exactly like you do. That is, because we self-select what information we are exposed to, it is very easy to ensure that we are never exposed to information that we don’t like.

Online communities, as Wes put it, are very easy to exit. This is certainly true – you simply stop going to that forum, IRC channel, whatever, and those people, many of whom only know you by a handle, have no way to contact you.

However, this probably assumes that online communites are necessarily less binding (emotionally, socially, etc) than f2f communities. I think that, for the most part, for most people, that’s probably true. However, I have some folks that I consider good friends, who I met online, and with whom I carry out the majority of our relationship online. Most of them, I have eventually met in person, but not all of them. And in that regard, I’m quite the exception, simply because I travel so much.

Wes also brought up the cellphone issue that we’ve been talking about since college. When we were in college, we had the pay phone on the hall, and everybody knew what was going on in everybody else’s life, based on who’s calling them, and what they yelled on the phone. These days, not only does everybody have a cell phone, but the fire warden decided that all the room doors must be closed at all times, so nobody is connecting to each others’ lives via simple osmosis. It’s now harder work to make these connections. Are they doing that hard work? Yeah, probably. I wouldn’t know. I’m not in the dorm anymore.

Whenever the “older generation” attempts to understand the “younger generation”, they are forced to make generalizations. These generalizations, while they tend to be false in the case of many/most individuals, are nevertheless very useful to analyze the group as a whole. I don’t feel that most of the generalizations about “generation X” apply to me, but I see that they are fairly useful when dealing with us as a whole. It’s going to be interesting to see how these analyses play out in the long run. It’ll also be interesting to see what the generation after the next gets called, if folks can’t come up with anything smarter than “generation Y” and “generation Z” to call the next two.

Air Force Museum

Today we visited the Air Force Museum, on the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, where they’ve got (at least) one of every plane that has ever flown for the US Air Force. I had very mixed feelings about the visit.

On the one hand, I was (very literally) slack-jawed for 2 hours while looking at a simply amazing collection of planes, many of which I’ve read stories about for years. Including the Bockscar, which dropped Fat Man on Nagasaki to end WWII. Including Spitfires. Including the Blackbird, and the Stealth Bomber, and B52s, and Meserschmits, and Zeros, and several Air Force Ones, and on and on. Alas, I wanted to see a P51 Mustang, and one of the volunteers there told me that there was one, but I never did find it.

Photos here.

On the other hand, I felt a profound sense of how much death and misery this collection of hardware had caused in the world over the last 60 or 70 years. Many of the planes had markings on the side indicating how many bombs they had dropped, or how many enemy aircraft they had shot down.

I watched a number of war movies over the Memorial Day weekend, on AMC. I continue to have a difficult time understanding the concept of solving international disagreements by killing one another’s young men. And the way that we hated the entire population of various nations, at various times in our history, is very saddening.

Anyways, enough with the deep thoughts. The photos have almost finished uploading, and they are very cool. I expect Matsu has some even better ones, and perhaps can be persuaded to post them at some point.

King’s Island dress code

The last time I visited King’s Island, which was perhaps 10 years ago, I was astonished at the t-shirts that were being worn. Many of the kids were wearing t-shirts with slogans, and pictures, that were vulgar, profane, rude, violent, and disgusting.

This time, it seems that youth dress has swung back a little bit. The slogans were sarcastic and a little rude, but mostly civil and even somewhat clever.

So, not everything in the world is getting worse.

I also noticed that *everybody* had tattoos, from the 14 year old kids all the way up through the 87 year old grandmas. Large, brightly colored, and in very conspicuous places.

Wah, wah, I didn’t think of it first

This morning, I was listening to Dan O’Brien’s talk at OSCon about evil.. Highly recommended listening, and *very* funny. One of the things he talked about was the quote by Mohandas Ghandi (or was it Eric Raymond?)

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.

So, in that light, we have Bill Gates laughing at MIT’s $100 laptop project

“If you are going to go have people share the computer, get a broadband connection and have somebody there who can help support the user, geez, get a decent computer where you can actually read the text and you’re not sitting there cranking the thing while you’re trying to type,” Gates said.

This is great news on many fronts. It demonstrates that Mr. Gates is frightened by the prospect, and, of course, since clever platitudes are always true, it proves that MIT will eventually “win” in some sense, with universally available cheap computer hardware. Yay, MIT.

Millenium Development Goals

6 years ago, the UN proposed the UN Millennium Development Goals as attainable, practical goals that we, as a global community, should attempt to reach. These include, among other things, eliminating extreme poverty.

In the booklet Eradicating Global Poverty, from the National Council of Churches, extreme poverty is simply defined as the kind of poverty that kills. This can take many forms, from dying of hunger, to dying of easily preventable and easily curable diseases, that those of us in wealthy nations would never even think of as being fatal.

Imagine for a moment, if you even can, having to decide which one of your kids is going to have something to eat tonight. No, I can’t imagine it either. I have difficulty saying no when she wants a snack she really doesn’t need. I can only begin to glimpse the anguish of being unable to say yes, no matter how much I wanted to.

It’s a simple matter, of course, to say “the problem is too big, I can’t solve it”, and so resolve to do nothing. I imagine most of us are there. But I have seen numerous times over the last few weeks, where we, as the American people, are shamefully wasteful of the things which we have in embarrassing quantity.

To give one simple example, yesterday I was at Michaels for their weekly craft time. When craft time is over, any left-over materials are thrown away. This is policy. They cannot be sold. They cannot be given to charities, schools, churches, or any individual. They must be thrown away. Presumably there are “good reasons” for this, just like there are good reasons that leftovers from meals at restaurants must be thrown out. But surely there is some way that we can reduce what we waste, and thus share what we have more equitably with the rest of the peoples of the earth.

It is indeed a huge problem, but it is one that economists seem to think that we can actually solve within our generation.

The goal is not a fantasy, says economist Jeffrey Sachs. “Ours is the first generation in the history of the world with the ability to eradicate extreme poverty. We have the means, the resources and the know-how. All we lack is the will.”

Some of us take Lent as a time to consider our overindulgences, and to refrain from them. This is not simply about denying ourselves something, nor is it at all about stopping bad habits. One of the many things that it is about is learning, as Theresa of Calcutta said, to live simply, that others may simply live.

I have a number of other thoughts on this topic, but I’ll keep them for another time. Primarily, I encourage you to read the Millenium Development Goals, and consider in what way you can reduce conspicuous waste in your sphere of influence.